Thursday, January 3, 2019

Do You Fear Falling?

As much as the Stepping On program falls prevention program I participated in during 2015 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 falling education has to face something head-on.

That issue is fear.

Fear of falling.

At one of the first classes I took, 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 mid 60's, and I am increasingly afraid of winter.  Now that my spouse has retired, I have someone to take me to work if the weather is bad.  But how many people live alone, or with spouses or partners who suffer physical or health issues?

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.  But falling seems to be all around me.  A co worker's father fell and hit his head last year. His injury may impact the rest of his life.

My spouse fell in October of 2017 and broke his nose, among other injuries.  He needed months of physical therapy.  He was lucky.

My mother in law, who passed away last November, fell a number of times, starting in her 60's.  Eventually, the cumulative injuries led to her loss of independence.

I think we all have stories - ourselves, loved ones, friends.

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.  

Now, at times, I could wish for a third leg.  Seniors do have something like that available to them - it's called a cane.  But too many seniors shy away (we learned this in the falling classes) from using a cane, or even a walker, out of shame, or fear of being stared at.  Fear of knowing they are growing old factors into it, too. (And we were also taught that many seniors use a cane that isn't the right length.  How many of them are fitted for a cane? I wonder.)

So how do you deal 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.  When I go to the doctor now, I am asked if I had fallen any since my last exam.  That question was never part of the normal pre-exam workup.

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?

Is there something like that in your community?  I wonder if fear education works.

Day three of the Ultimate Blog Challenge #blogboost

12 comments:

  1. I am terrified of falling on ice. I slipped on a piece of ice - the last one in Detroit back in 1968 - and broke my leg. Ever since icy sidewalks and drives freak me out. I have been known to drive down to the mailbox. Really. I even bought spike grips to put on my boots if necessary. Never heard of any class dealing with that issue.

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  2. I imagine I will fear falling more as I get older, but even now, what's bad about it is how much harder it is to get back up again. I don't bounce back up like I used to when I was younger.

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  3. I'd no idea that one should be fitted for a cane and had always assumed that a cane was a cane. We live in a region where snow and icy sidewalks are rare but falling is still an issue.

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  4. If and when I fall, it's more a result of "pay attention, dummy" than a loss of balance. That doesn't make the consequences any less damaging. But, I can imaging how much worse this will be when PAD gets coupled with a loss of balance.

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    1. The same is true for me. Pay attention, dummy! Fortunately, when dummy wasn't paying attention, the only thing that got injured was her dignity, especially when she fell for an audience.

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  5. Those seniors who are in my circle of friends definitely talk about the negative side of falling, and winter in the north is a hazard for everyone. Some won't even venture outside if there's ice on the walkway... however, it isn't only ice/snow that causes falls. Uneven surfaces, throw rugs, etc cause many to fall. It's a bigger issue than weather - and I think you've found a true imbalance (if I'm allowed to use the pun) in the conversation. Are we taught not to fear falling... or are we taught to fall well? Falling is inevitable, and being trained to fall in ways that won't cause harm might be a good way to also deal with the fear of falling... Maybe?

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  6. Glad to see someone naming the real issue.

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  7. I think the reason fear of falling is an issue is because if you are so fixated on *not* doing something, you're more likely to do it. And as you get older, you worry about a serious fall. Just my two cents.

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  8. I'm not worried about falling, but running my toes into chairs is my downfall. I've broke toes 3 times within 2 year! LOL

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  9. I really don't fear falling, but I am afraid of ice. If I have to go somewhere, I might cancel my plans if it is too icy, especially if I have to walk to my destination. Even if I don't fall on the ice, it will take me so long to get there that it's not worth it.

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  10. I don't fear falling but do fear aging in pain so I am taking steps now to keep my body healthy!

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  11. I am not sure how to avoid sliding on the ice, but I am tripping and falling less since I started doing balance exercises. However, everyone falls on the ice, right? Unless you had those boots with spikes in them, which would then make walking on regular floors impossible.

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