Tips for Minimizing Your Fall Risk
Last updated: July 2023
Fall risks are all around, but when your mobility is impaired, fall risks are amplified. As such, so should be your awareness of these risks.
To help increase your awareness and encourage you to minimize your risks, here are some alarming facts about falls from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC):1
- The rate of death from falls has increased 31 percent from 2007 to 2016 among US residents aged 65 and older
- 1 out of 5 falls causes a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
After a person sustains a fall, they are more likely to develop a fear of falling even if they were not injured. This fear causes them to be less active. However, a more sedentary lifestyle actually increases the risk of falling and injury even more. Fear management should certainly be addressed when assessing fall risk.
What exactly would constitute someone as having impaired mobility and being at an increased risk of falling? This can include certain medical diagnoses such as:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Diabetes, which can cause impaired sensation of the feet and vision problems
Even diagnoses like cancer can cause side effects that impair a person's overall strength, walking, and endurance, and thus increase their fall risk.
Even having issues with your bladder or bowel incontinence can put you at an increased risk of falling because you may feel like you have to hastily rush to the bathroom at times.
If you deal with any of these risk factors, you may want to speak with your doctor about ways to directly manage them. Consider even seeing a physical therapist to address them through specific interventions to improve your overall mobility and decrease your fall risk.
Oftentimes, these impairments occur along with each other, not just singularly. They may also occur along with other factors like advanced age, depression and/or anxiety, and certain medicines use and side effects.2
Being proactive about managing the risk factors you can control should be your first approach.
Environmental factors play a large role in falls as well. While public places should be up to code with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and accessibility standards to allow access for all mobility levels (hence decreasing fall risks), we know that this, unfortunately, is not always the case.3
I highly encourage you to advocate for ADA-accessible standards in all public places. But let’s also not overlook the accessibility and safety of where you most likely spend most of your time: your home.
Your own home
There are several factors you can address within your home to minimize or prevent falling. These include:
- Removing or securing all rugs
- Taking extra caution with pets
- Repairing poor flooring
- Improving poor lighting
- Clearing clutter
- Installing handrails on stairs
- Using assistive devices or other durable medical equipment properly
- Ensuring no cords or wires are impeding pathways
- Installing grab bars in the bathroom around the toilet and shower/bathtub
In addition, if you live alone, consider getting a life alert button to wear around your neck or keep a phone in your pocket at all times. Also, keep often-used items within easy reach, and always wear proper fitting shoes with a rubber sole.
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: