September 21, 2023

Preventing Falls

General Health

About one in four adults over the age of 65 fall each year, resulting in about 3 million visits to the Emergency Department. Recovering from a fall can be challenging and often the fear of falling increases. While falling is commonly thought to be a normal part of aging, it is not! Due to this belief people will often decrease their activity levels to prevent falls, but in fact a reduction of activity increases the risk of a fall. Additionally, the financial cost of falls was nearly $800 million dollars in Wisconsin, including $147 million dollars in out-of-pocket expenses.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Wisconsin has the highest death rate from a fall in the country. While the exact reasons are not known, we do know that there are several ways to reduce the risk of falls. If you have had a recent fall, a recent near fall, or have a fear of falling, please know there are many resources available.

  • At the state level, Wisconsin has Falls Free Wisconsin website where you can determine your fall risk and learn ways to decrease your risk of falling:
  • Speak to your primary care provider about your risk of falling. There are many layers of risk assessments, including examining your vision, assessing your skin sensation, and even seeing if there are changes in your feet.
  • There are standardized tests to formally assess your leg strength and balance such as how long it takes you to stand up and sit down five times, timing how fast you walk, and if you can stand on one leg. These tests (along with others) are often performed by a physical therapist. Please contact your provider or physical therapist if you feel you would benefit, and they can make individual recommendations based on the results.

There are additional ways to decrease a person’s fall risk:

  • Review your home set up and remove trip hazards, install grab bars next to shower and toilet, have railings on both sides of your stairs, and make sure that there is sufficient lighting.
  • Have vision examinations as indicated by your eye doctor.
  • Have your Primary Care Provider or pharmacist review your medications to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy.
  • Do strength and balance exercises: Attend a class at your local Senior Center, follow along at home with an online class, or do exercises prescribed by your physical therapist. There are many class options including Tai Chi, Matter of Balance, Ballroom Basics for Balance, and Stepping On.