Friday, May 27, 2016

Falling Friday - Fear of Falling

As much as the Stepping On program falls prevention program I participated in last year taught me, there is something that they never touched on.  Not directly, anyway.  My guess is, it isn't part of the official curriculum they must follow.  I think this fear goes hand in hand with balance education, however.

That issue is fear.

Fear of falling.

At one of the first classes, the two instructors asked us "How many of you don't go out during the winter unless you absolutely have to?"  More than half raised their hands.  In upstate New York, winters are cold and harsh, with lots of ice and snow.  We can get over 100 inches of snow (254 cm) in a year.  If you don't go out, you are isolated.

But if you have to go out, there are icy sidewalks to deal with.  We've all fallen on them.

I'm only in my 60's, and I am increasingly afraid of winter.

But it gets worse.  Stepping On teaches strategies, with videos and discussions, of how to deal with various situations that result in balance challenges, and that is all good.

I refuse to accept that becoming fearful is a normal part of aging.

I know a senior much older than I am. She lives far from me, so I only see her a couple of times a year.  She lives with someone, but still was somewhat independent.  She had fallen several times, but had never hurt herself. She was petite, feisty, and mentally active.

"I bounce back up like a rubber ball", she said proudly to me, one day several years ago.

Until she didn't.

Until she broke her hip, falling in her bedroom.

One partial hip replacement later, she has many quality of life issues, but one of the worst is her fear of falling. She no longer has flexibility.  She no longer has balance.  She is terrified of having to leave her house because she might fall.

It shouldn't have to be like this, in your final years.

Experts tell us that fear of falling actually leads to an increased risk of falling.  It doesn't sound right, but it does make sense.  And there are ways of dealing with the fear.

It's great that our part of upstate New York has programs to help seniors with balance.  Falling has become a major concentration of the medical community here, as we have a high population of seniors in our area.

But, I feel, it won't do much good without touching on the psychological issues. What good is teaching balance if people have already developed the fear?  How about a class on dealing with that fear and learning to find ways to make it better?

We will see what the future brings for the seniors in our area.  Hopefully, one day, being elderly will not be the same (in too many cases) as being afraid.  And, I believe educational programs will be an important part of this.

If we can develop them.

Is there a program dealing with the direct fears of falling in the elderly in your area?

12 comments:

  1. I live in Maine where wintertime fear of falling strikes all ages. Ice knows no age. Aging is a tough mistress.

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    Replies
    1. You are right; ice knows no age. But once you get past your 50's (I'm 63) it seems harder and harder to recover.

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  2. I live in Nashville--when it snows here, nobody goes out. Only the main roads are salted. But a lot of businesses now pay to have their sidewalks and parking lots salted to avoid lawsuits. It's just cheaper that way. But in Northern cities when it's snowing all the time, I can see where that would be a huge problem.

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    Replies
    1. I lived years ago in Fayetteville, AR. Roads were left untreated; sidewalks were never salted. That was 30 years ago. I wonder what happens now.

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    2. It was like this in Mississippi too because the ability to handle ice and snow simply didn’t exist, and since ice and snow tended to be rare and melt fast, it made sense that the money was spent on other things.

      I lived in Minnesota for two years, and was so freaked-out by the winters that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would stay in such place if he didn’t have to.

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  3. It's that old rule. We need to keep being active- to keep being active. the more we fall behind in our daily exercise, the harder it becomes to maintain agility. And, then each fall or failure reminds us of our age- to which we respond by doing less- and leaving ourselves to greater risks.

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    Replies
    1. Words of wisdom. It's a vicious cycle.

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  4. Ever since I fell in January, I've been a bit paranoid about falling again. And I didn't hurt myself badly--just a twisted ankle and a scraped knee. It's silly, but it's there. And I totally get how fear of falling would be more likely to cause one to fall.

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  5. The fit in fall classes are great. The lady who teaches is wrapping it up.
    She takes the summer off.
    Coffee is on

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  6. The fear of falling knows no age, it scares the hell out of me every now and then! And there is no such program around here. People just tend to help others if they suspect one needs help. I guess that's enough.. For now! :)

    Btw, the fourth part is out, do check it out!
    http://bit.ly/1TOLEzi

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  7. Fear of falling is much bigger than falling itself. Although I am young, I get paranoid due to the influence of fear. I hope the program improves to address the much needed psychological issues.

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  8. A broken hip was once a fatal injury for the elderly—it killed my 85-year-old Granny back in 1961. I’m 67, and I know that when one reaches this age, he doesn’t even have the speed to put his hands out to break a fall, so this almost guarantees significant injury. I still ride my bike sometimes, but I don’t feel comfortable doing it.

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