Fear of Falling: What is it and How Can You Overcome it?

Posted on: 19/10/2021

Understandably, it’s quite common to develop a fear of falling after experiencing a trip or a fall. This is especially true for older adults if the consequences of the fall were great, such as broken bones. It can also be felt by someone who hasn’t fallen before, but this is less common.

Thankfully, a fear of falling can be managed so that your loved one can continue to do the things they enjoy without feeling constantly anxious about falling again.

What is a fear of falling?

Fear of falling, or post-fall-syndrome, describes the anxiety that someone feels towards walking or moving about, as they worry that another fall will occur by doing so.

Unfortunately, especially in older adults, the restriction of movement and mobility caused by a fear of falling can actually lead to functional decline, as they become less physically active.

The overall feeling of anxiety can also impact your loved one’s mood, leaving them feeling low, frustrated, and potentially worrying that they may be losing their independence.

This is why it is so important to work on overcoming the fear.

Understanding the causes of falls

If your loved one has fallen in the past and this has triggered the fear, it’s best to first look at what may have caused the fall so that it can be avoided in the future. Knowing this has been addressed will be a big step towards helping to build their confidence again.

Some of the most common causes of falls include:

  • Medication – some medications have side effects, such as dizziness, light-headedness or drowsiness, which can all affect balance and lead to falls.
  • Weak muscles or feet problems – weak leg muscles or certain foot conditions can either lead to reduced physical activity due to pain, or poor balance.
  • Memory loss, confusion or disorientation – these symptoms can affect the ability to judge situations and the overall perception of particular hazards that may cause a fall.
  • Dehydration and poor nutrition – both of these can lead to overall weakness or disorientation, as above.
  • Inappropriate footwear – footwear with poor grip or that is too big/small can increase the risk of falling.
  • Bowel and bladder issues – if these issues cause your or your loved one to rush to the toilet, especially during the night, there is an increased risk of falling whilst rushing.
  • Problems with vision and/or hearing – these can affect the ability to perceive certain hazards or can affect balance.

Once you have identified and addressed the cause, you can then work on helping your loved one to overcome their fear of falling.

How to overcome a fear of falling

Your loved one doesn’t have to let the anxiety of falling take over their life – thankfully, there are things they can do (and things you can help them with) to work on overcoming it.

  1. Talk about it. Sit down with your loved one and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling. From this, you can help to challenge any negative thoughts they may be having and help them realise how they don’t need to feel constantly anxious. It’s also a chance to talk through the other ways in which you can help them to overcome their fear.
  2. Start walking together in familiar places. Suggest going for a gentle walk with your loved one to a place they are comfortable and familiar with. If there is enough space, their garden may be a good place to start before moving outside of their home. The more often you are able to go for gentle walks, the more it will help to build their confidence.
  3. Work on strength and balance. Encouraging your loved one to do strength and balance exercises can also help to build their confidence, as they begin to feel stronger and more sturdy. These can be done easily at home, with the help of countertops and chair. As your loved one’s confidence develops further, you could also encourage them to take up a class such as Tai chi.
  4. Introduce relaxation. Encourage your loved one to work on relaxation, to help reduce anxiety and muscle tension. Relaxation techniques, such as breathing and visualisation, can be a really useful tool that your loved one can easily use whenever their anxiety is becoming overwhelming.
  5. Consider a falls detector or personal alarm to give your loved one additional peace of mind that help will always be readily available. With a personal alarm, they can easily press the button to call for help when they need it. With a fall detector, any fall they do have will be detected and an alert for help will automatically be sent.

We hope this article has given you some tips and advice that you will be able to use to help your loved one overcome their fear of falling.

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