Preventing Falls and What to Do if a Fall Happens

Stephanie Chong

Last month, NNV members and volunteers attended a training on Safe Navigation in the Community offered in partnership with Chevy Chase House and Fox Rehab. Meghan Boone, MPT (Master of Physical Therapy) offered a wealth of information that was too good to keep to ourselves! In this second article of a three-part series, we will address what you need to know about falls and fall prevention:

According to the CDC, 31.9% of DC adults age 65+ reported a fall in 2018 – that’s higher than the national average. Common fall risks include blood pressure changes, dehydration, muscle weakness, balance changes, hearing and vision loss. Other fall risks include being on more than four medications, and possessing a fear of falling. While some of the risk factors are part of the aging process, a Physical and Occupational Therapist (PT and OT) can help you adapt and teach you new ways of doing things to help prevent a fall.

With a prescription, you are entitled to an evaluation and treatment with a PT under the preventative services Medicare Part B benefit.  Not all providers offer this option, Fox Rehab does. A PT can tailor an exercise program to your specific needs, and recommend and fit you for assistive devices that could be useful.

What to Do When a Fall Happens

Stay calm. Take your time to assess the situation. Even if there are no outward signs of bleeding, there may be internal bleeding.  It’s important to take falls seriously. If you or someone you know falls and feels like they can get up, move to a sturdy surface like a chair. Begin by getting onto hands and knees, and gradually making your way up to sit in the chair. If you can’t get on your hands and knees, scoot on your bottom until you can get to a place to pull yourself up on a chair. It is not recommended to go directly to a standing position because blood pressure changes could cause another fall.

If you are with someone who falls, do not help them up because you might injure yourself or they might get injured in the process. Make them comfortable and create a safe space. You can move a chair near them so they can try to get up on their own. If the person is unable to get up, call 911.

Staying Safe

Proper lighting and the removal of throw rugs and other obstacles are effective ways to reduce the risk of falls in your home. Full members can contact the office to request a volunteer’s help to change lightbulbs and remove throw rugs and items that pose a fall risk by calling 202-935-6060.  It’s also worthwhile to invest in a Medical Alert System, which allows you to summon help in the event of an emergency like a fall or other medical event. This Consumer Reports article compares different systems.

Next week we will wrap up this series with an article on how to get in and out of a car safely.

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