Fear of falling is an important problem in the elderly. It has been determined that almost half of people over the age of 65 have a fear of falling. The source of the fear of falling may be previous falls, or sometimes the person may be worried about the fear of falling and limit their activities even though they have never fallen. Restricting activities may indeed reduce the likelihood of falling, as it will reduce risks in the short term. However, in the long term, this approach aggravates the problems as it can lead to worsening of the physical condition, muscle and bone loss.
Fear of falling stems from a person’s perception of their ability to walk and balance. Fear of falling in the elderly may be due to the fact that the person underestimates himself, or it may have very justified reasons. However, in any case, it is known that the fear of falling increases anxiety, makes the muscles more stiff, and ultimately increases the risk of falling even more in the long run. Understanding the causes of the fear of falling and dealing with this feeling increases the self-confidence of the elderly and improves their quality of life.
What to Do for Fear of Falling in the Elderly
- Finding causes of falls and taking action to reduce risk
- Being prepared in advance for what to do if a fall occurs
- Explaining the fear and anxiety of falling to your relatives and doctor
- Setting small attainable goals to increase self-confidence
- Eliminating negative thoughts
- stay active
- Using relaxation techniques
Identifying Risks and Hazards
Many factors can affect the risk of falling . These may be related to health, environment or personal factors. If you fall, you should ask these questions:
- Were you in a hurry?
- Was there an obstacle on the ground that caught your foot? Was the floor slippery?
- If you had a walking aid like a walking stick, did you use it?
- Have you experienced dizziness?
Such questions help determine the cause of the fall. If you have not had a fall before or if you cannot determine the cause of a fall, knowing the risk factors for falling will help reduce your risk of falling in the future. Problems such as cataracts and glaucoma should be treated by performing an eye examination, and appropriate glasses should be used. Good lighting in the living environment, the absence of things such as electric cables and rugs on the floor, the placement of bars that can hold hands in the toilet and bathroom, the presence of handrails on stairs and steps are the main features that should be considered in homes where the elderly live.
Some drugs can cause side effects such as dizziness, blurred vision, and difficulty thinking clearly. Elderly people can use many drugs. In this case, it should be ensured that the drugs are used under regular doctor control. If you suspect that medication side effects increase your risk of falling, talk to your doctor. Do not make changes in the way you use drugs without the knowledge of your doctor. Knowing what drugs are used for, using them at the right dose and at the right time, and learning about possible side effects are the main things that the patient should do for rational drug use. It will make your doctor’s job much easier to write down the names, doses and forms of use of the drugs you use on paper and take them with you to the doctor’s examinations. Calcium and vitamin D deficiency can exacerbate osteoporosis and also increase the risk of falling. Your doctor may recommend vitamin supplements when deemed necessary.
Being Prepared for the Possibility of Falling
No one wants to fall, but planning what to do in the event of a fall for elderly people who live alone or stay alone at home for a long time can both reduce their anxiety and make it easier to get help in case of a fall. In the event of a fall, it may be good preparation to notify a person who has been spoken to beforehand or by phone or by alarm. Municipalities may have services such as an emergency button. In addition, people living alone may want neighbors, relatives, or a friend to check on them regularly by phone or visit. It may be a good idea to give a spare key in advance so that your loved one, whom you reached by phone as a result of a fall, can enter the house.
Dealing with Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts increase anxiety and fear. Therefore, it is necessary to learn to deal with negative thoughts first. After a fall, people may panic while walking, their breathing and heartbeat may accelerate. If this is the case, first of all, it should be self-suggested that the negative feelings will go away by regulating their breathing. Various relaxation techniques can also be used for this. In relaxation techniques, there are methods such as calming the mind by daydreaming, realizing tense muscles and allowing them to relax. When good results are achieved, one should congratulate and reward oneself. In this way, self-confidence can increase.
People who have been inactive for a while and do not exercise may fear that they will harm themselves when they start to move and walk again. This thought can limit movements. But worries should not be allowed to push them into inaction. There are exercises for every activity level. As you move, the muscles will get stronger, their flexibility will increase, posture and balance will improve. Of course, these develop gradually. Staying active is also very beneficial for morale and motivation. When we exercise, molecules that reduce depression and anxiety are produced in the brain. A wide variety of activities such as walking, swimming, tai chi, pilates, yoga, dance, fitness can be suitable for the elderly. You can find an activity that suits you and you enjoy.
Other Methods to Reduce Anxiety
Tea, coffee, and caffeinated beverages can worsen sleep and anxiety disorders. Consider reducing or cutting back on these drinks. Pay attention to a healthy, balanced and regular diet. Being hungry or eating irritating foods can have a bad effect on psychology. Getting a good night’s sleep and getting enough rest makes you feel better during the day and gives you the energy to deal with problems. You should avoid alcohol. Alcohol may make you feel better in the short term, but will increase discomfort in the long term. In addition, alcohol use is a factor that alone increases the risk of falling. Do not rush your movements. When getting up from the chair, be slow and careful while sitting. Concentrate on one task at a time. Don’t do two things at the same time. For example, don’t look at the phone while walking, focus on where you are going and moving safely.