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  • Writer's pictureShannon Cobb

The 1 Sneaky Thing That Can Increase Your Risk Of A Fall?

Falls; they’re only funny when you’re watching America’s Funniest Home Videos and even then they make you hold your breath for a second. According to the CDC 3 million older adults are treated in the Emergency Department for fall related injuries every year. Over 800,000 people are hospitalized because of fall injuries every year and most of these are due to a head or hip injury. It goes without saying that falls are not a joke and they can have real consequences. It’s no wonder most older adults admit to having a fear of falling, but what you may not think about is that this fear of falling is actually a risk factor in itself.

“Fear of falling has been identified as an independent risk factor for reduced quality of life, activity restriction, loss of independence, and fall-risk” (Young, 2015). Studies have shown that a fear of falling affects older adults’ ability to scan their environment, assess their next move and react to a disturbance in their balance. These three factors increase their risk of falling especially in community environments such as out at the grocery store or walking on an outdoor trail.”

Fear takes up our attention. Think of your attention as a pie with 4 slices. Having a conversation takes away a slice of pie. Walking, another slice, walking in a crowded area, that’s the third slice. Now a small child runs out in front of you, that last slice of pie is used up to react and avoid this obstacle. But what if your fear of falling while walking in this busy environment had already used up that last slice of attention pie? You only get so much attention to expend on any given task. The more complicated the task the more attention it requires. The more fearful you are about a task the more attention is stolen away by this fear.

So how do we address this issue and save up some slices of pie for later? We practice! In therapy we identify the things that are most difficult or most frightening for your (the things taking up the most pie slices) and we practice those until they are both easier and create less fear, saving your attention for unforeseen events and obstacles that may come up in your environment. We do this while putting you in a safe environment. If you choose to practice balance skills that make you fearful at home, always make sure you have an “exit strategy”. Always have a sturdy rail or chair to hold onto in the event of a loss of balance or even better a sturdy and strong human being who you trust to steady or catch you in the event of a loss of balance.

If you recognize a fear of falling that may be affecting your safety we are here to help you! Come see us for a FREE 30 minute discovery visit to determine if you qualify for Physical Therapy and how we can best serve you to prevent falls in your future!

Young WR, Mark Williams A. How fear of falling can increase fall-risk in older adults: applying psychological theory to practical observations. Gait Posture. 2015 Jan;41(1):7-12. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2014.09.006. Epub 2014 Sep 22. PMID: 25278464.

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