A fall is anything that causes you to make unexpected contact with the floor or ground. If you’re 65 or older, you’re at an increased risk of serious falls. Every year, 1 in 3 Americans age 65 and older falls. In many instances, falls can cause severe injuries, lead to health problems and prevent you from doing the activities you enjoy.
Conditions that can increase your risk of falling include:
- High blood pressure, frailty or difficulty walking or standing.
- Medication side effects and interactions.
- Vision or hearing problems.
- Psychological or cognitive conditions, such as dementia or depression.
- Clutter, loose cords, poor lighting, or unstable or uneven steps.
Preventing falls is everyone’s responsibility, including family members, healthcare providers and caregivers. We can help identify risks, create a safe home environment, and find products and services to help reduce the risk of falling and get you prompt treatment after a fall.
Although there are some risk factors no one can control, there are a few things you can do to greatly reduce your risk of falling:
- Tell your doctor if you’ve fallen or almost fallen in the last six months or if you’ve felt dizzy. Also, review your medications with your doctor, including over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements.
- Have a physical therapist or occupational therapist evaluate your physical abilities. Your doctor can order an in-home evaluation if you’re at risk.
- Stay fit and strong. Talk to your doctor about activities that you enjoy and can do safely.
- Get your vision and hearing checked at least once or twice a year. If you have diabetes, be sure to get a dilated eye exam as well.
- Prevent falls at home by keeping it free of clutter, throw rugs, slippery floors and other hazards. Add handrails where needed, such as grab bars in the shower and supports on either side of the toilet. Make sure areas are well lit by installing night lights.
- Use a cane, walker or other mobility aid if your doctor has prescribed it, and make sure you know how to use it properly.
Our Health Library & Resource Center staff can help you find information about preventing, surviving and recovering from falls, as well as resources and products that can help keep you safe and on your feet.
After a Fall
If you do fall, stay as calm as possible. Take several deep breaths to try to relax. Then:
- Remain still on the floor or ground for a few moments. This will help you get over the shock of falling.
- Decide if you're hurt before getting up. Getting up too quickly or in the wrong way could make an injury worse.
- If you think you can get up safely without help, roll over onto your side.
- Rest again while your body and blood pressure adjust. Slowly get up on your hands and knees, and crawl to a sturdy chair.
- Put your hands on the chair seat and slide one foot forward so that it’s flat on the floor. Keep the other leg bent so your knee is on the floor.
- From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
- If you're hurt or can't get up on your own, ask someone for help or call 911. If you're alone, try to get into a comfortable position and wait for help to arrive.
If you’re injured from a fall, prompt attention and care can make all the difference in your recovery.
El Camino Health’s commitment to preventing falls extends into the community. We’ve collaborated with the Silicon Valley Healthy Aging Partnership to help educate first responders, and we work with community organizations serving older adults to increase awareness of fall prevention in the Santa Clara County area.