Dec 1, 2011 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 But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date.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

Tips for Preventing Falls

Am Fam Physician. 2011 Dec 1;84(11):1277-1278.

See related article on management of falls in older persons.

Who is at risk of falling?

Older adults are at risk of falling, but anyone who has had a previous fall, has weak leg muscles, or has problems with walking or balance has a higher risk.

What problems can happen when you fall?

You can get bruises or fractures, such as a broken hip. Sometimes falls cause life-threatening injuries.

What will my doctor do if I have had a fall?

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or an exercise program, changes to your home to make it safer, stopping medicines that can increase your fall risk, or wearing different shoes. Your doctor may also check your vitamin D level, because a low level can increase the risk of falls.

How can I prevent a fall?

  • Tell your doctor if you have had a fall in the past, even if you were not injured.

  • Tell your doctor if you are having problems with your balance or walking, or if you have leg weakness.

  • If you need a cane or walker, use it correctly.

  • Participate regularly in a group exercise program that includes strength and balance training. Senior centers and your local Council on Aging or hospital may offer these programs.

  • Ask your doctor to review the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines.

  • Get up slowly when you are sitting or lying down.

  • Be careful when wearing multifocal glasses, and do not wear them while climbing stairs or walking.

  • Wear shoes with a low heel, adequate closures (laces or Velcro), and nonslip soles. Avoid slippers, backless shoes, or going barefoot.

What can I do to my house to prevent falls?

  • Remove rugs, or use double-sided tape or nonslip backing so rugs will not move.

  • Remove clutter, including cords or wires, from walkways.

  • Turn on lights in hallways and stairways.

  • Be sure that handrails are attached well on both sides of all stairways.

  • Move items you can't reach to lower shelves and cabinets.

  • Use step stools that are steady and have railings to hold onto.

  • Use a nonslip rubber mat in the bathtub.

  • Install handrails in the bathtub and near the toilet.

  • Consider using a personal emergency response system, especially if you live alone.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

AAFP's Patient Education Resource

Web site: http://familydoctor.org

American Geriatrics Society

Web site: http://www.healthinaging.org/agingintheknow/chapters_ch_trial.asp?ch=21

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Web sites: http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/adultfalls.html and http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/ChecklistForSafety.html

National Institute on Aging

Web site: http://nihseniorhealth.gov/falls/toc.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 © 2011 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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