Jul 1, 2005 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

How to Prevent Falling

Am Fam Physician. 2005 Jul 1;72(01):93-94.

See related article on prevention of falls in older patients.

What should I know about falls in older people?

Older people who fall can hurt themselves badly. Injuries from a fall can range from bruises and cuts to more serious problems like a broken hip. Falls may keep an older person from living alone. Some older people may not do certain things because they are afraid of falling.

What causes older people to fall?

Most falls in older people are caused by things around us, like slick floors, clutter, and loose rugs. Other reasons are weak muscles, trouble seeing, balance problems, dizziness, and side effects from medicines.

Who is in danger of falling?

Falling happens more as people get older. This is because of changes that come with aging, such as trouble seeing, balance problems, and arthritis.

You are more likely to fall if you:

  • Have fallen before

  • Have weakness in your legs

  • Are unsteady while walking or have balance problems

  • Are taking more than four medicines

  • Have medical problems such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, heart problems, low blood pressure, or dizziness, or have had a stroke.

How can I keep from falling in my home?

Many falls happen at home. You can make your home safer by following these tips:

  • Make sure you have good lighting in each room.

  • Put night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.

  • Keep floors free of clutter. Don’t leave things out that you could trip over (for example, throw rugs, books, clothes, or cords).

  • Put hand rails and lights on the stairs.

  • Wear shoes with firm, non-skid soles. Don’t wear house shoes (flip-flops), heels higher than 1 inch, or sports shoes.

  • Put rails in the bathtub and shower and around the toilet.

  • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower.

  • Keep items within easy reach in the kitchen cabinets.

What else can I do to keep from falling?

  • Get your eyes and hearing checked regularly.

  • Stay active and exercise often. This keeps your muscles and bones strong. Exercises that help your balance also are helpful. Talk to your doctor about the right kind of exercise for you.

  • Take care of your feet. If you have any pain in your feet, tell your doctor.

  • Ask your doctor if you need to use a walking aid.

  • Have your doctor go over all your medicines. Some medicines can make you sleepy or dizzy.

  • Don’t drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

  • When you get out of bed, sit on the side for about three minutes before you stand up. Standing up quickly can make you feel dizzy or lose your balance.

  • If you live alone, get an emergency system. With it, you would have an alert button that you can wear around your wrist or neck. Pressing the button sends a call for help. This is in case you fall where you cannot reach the phone.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor.

American Geriatrics Society

Telephone: 212–308–1414

Web site address: http://www.americangeriatrics.org

National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Telephone: 770–488–1506

Web site address: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/falls/#PDF

National Institute on Aging

Web site address: http://www.niapublications.org/engagepages/falls.asp

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Web site address: http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/701.html


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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