Many older adults who have fallen believe it is best to “stay safe” and avoid falling again by restricting their activities. Unfortunately, that’s the worst thing they can do! Inactivity is a path to reduced strength and mobility, which increases the risk of a fall and injury.
One of the most important things you can do is encourage your worried relative to stay up and moving. Here are some tips:
Talk about the fear
Although you don’t want to push, it’s important to talk with your relative about the risks of inactivity. This can pave the way to discussion of how to work with his or her (understandable) fear. Putting things in terms of your own concerns may be helpful. It sounds less blaming or demanding. For example:
“I’m concerned, Mom, that the fall you took in December has made you extra fearful. For sure, no one would want to go through that again! But I’ve done some reading and learned that being inactive actually makes you more likely to fall a second time. What can we do to build your strength and confidence?”
Offer strategies for change
Suggest ways that you can help your relative overcome his or her fear.
- “Let’s talk with your doctor about what’s worked for other patients in this situation.”
- “Let’s practice balance exercises together. Take a few laps down the hall. I’ll be here so you don’t have to worry.”
- “Let’s ask for a referral to a physical therapist. They can give you tips about walking, how to better catch yourself, and how to get up safely if you did fall again.”
- “Let’s take stock of what’s different now than when you fell. You were sick then.” (Or, “You’re no longer on that medication that made you dizzy.”).