What if I fall?

We talk a lot about how to prevent falls but what about if you do fall?

While we can’t always control it, here are some things to keep in mind to learn how to fall in a way that may be safer and protect you from injury…

  • Protect your head AND your hips! Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and are also the leading cause or hip fractures, which can significantly impact independence and have long-lasting negative effects.

  • Try to relax. The more tense you are, the more likely you are to be injured. 

  • If possible, aim to fall on soft surfaces, not concrete and away from things that may cause injury like dressers or gardening tools, for example. 

  • Fall on areas of your body that are closer to the ground and “meatier”, like your butt and thighs. Falling on these areas can protect places like your hips, knees, and wrists, which may be more likely to fracture. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Hip fractures are very hard to recover from.  

  • Bend your knees and elbows and keep your feet down as long as possible. Keeping your arms outstretched may cause you to lock your arms to stop your fall, which could lead to a broken wrist or elbow. 

  • To spread the impact and hopefully prevent injury, as you are coming to a stop on the ground, try to roll in a ball to your side. This can help stop you from going even further.  

  • After a fall, do not panic and avoid getting up too quickly. Take a few minutes to determine if you are injured. 
    –If you aren’t injured, you can attempt to get up from the floor. If using furniture for support, ensure that it is stable. 
    –If you are injured, call for help.  

In the split second before a fall, it can be hard to think about these things. But, with awareness and mindfulness, it can make all the difference! Of course, preventing the fall in the first place by practicing balance and strength exercises, reviewing your medications, making your home safer, wearing safe shoes, getting your vision and hearing checked regularly, or using assistive devices is the goal.  

What if I’m with someone who falls?

How can you help them? Follow these steps to keep you and those around you safe:

-Assess the situation. Is the person who fell hurt? Are there any hazards around that could cause either of you injury or another fall? 

-If the person is unconscious or injured, call 911. Wait until help arrives and try to help them remain calm. To avoid additional injuries, do not try to move them.  

-If the person is conscious, doesn’t have any injuries, and is able to get up you may be able to help them. Think about your own safety as well and do not do so if you’re not able to. To help them up, you can: 

  • Place a chair (one that is stable and without wheels) near their head. 

  • Roll them on their side by pushing gently on their hips and shoulders. Then, to prepare to get them on their hands and knees, help them get their arms underneath of them and on the floor. 

  • Help them lift their hips so they are on their knees (if this is uncomfortable roll up a towel to place under their knees). Once they are on their hands and knees, have them place their arms on the chair and lift one knee up so the foot is on the floor.  

  • If they are able to, they should use their strength to lift themselves up. You should remain within arm’s reach to help keep them steady if needed, but don’t attempt to support their full weight. 

  • Once standing, help them turn and sit in the chair to rest and further assess how they are feeling.  

It’s important to understand why someone fell. Did they suddenly have a drop in blood pressure? Did they start a new medication recently that is causing some side effects? Did a throw rug catch on their slippers? Encourage the person who fell to talk to their provider about the potential cause(s) of their fall and ways to prevent future falls.  

Watch Physical Therapist Melissa Lydecker explain how to get up after a fall:

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