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Fall Prevention

Updated August 17, 2023

Leacey Brown

SDSU Extension Gerontology Field Specialist

Talk About Fall Prevention With Your Primary Care Provider

Two older adults holding hands while walking.

If you or a loved one are age 65 or older or have a chronic medical condition, like diabetes or depression, discussing fall prevention with your medical provider is important. Below you will find a list factors your medical provider should evaluate during a fall risk assessment.

  • Gait, strength and balance: If you feel unsteady when walking, you may have poor gait, strength and balance. Your primary care provider might recommend physical therapy or taking an evidence-based exercise class, like Fit & Strong!
  • Medications: The side effects of some medications may place you at a greater risk for falls. For example, if you take furosemide (a “water pill”) you may need to use the restroom quickly and often, increasing your risk of falling.
  • Home hazards: The home may have trip or other fall hazards (area rugs, cords in walkways, slippery tub floor, etc.). Your primary care provider might recommend a home safety evaluation with an occupational therapist.
  • Orthostatic hypotension: This is a type of low blood pressure that happens when you stand up after being seated or lying down. Orthostatic hypotension can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. These feelings could make you feel like you might lose your balance and you are at risk of falling.
  • Visual impairment: Wearing glasses can increase your risk of falling, particularly with bifocals or trifocal glasses and climbing stairs. Other chronic eyes conditions, like macular degeneration or cataracts, can increase fall risk, especially in low light.
  • Feet/footwear issues: A fall can occur when wearing high heels or shoes with slippery soles. Shoes that don’t fit well or are not tied properly can lead to a fall. Foot problems, such as ingrown toe nails, contribute to fall risk.
  • Comorbid health conditions: Stroke, chronic kidney disease, arthritis, depression and diabetes affect the body in ways that lead to reduced sensitivity in extremities, walking abnormalities, balance/gait issues, muscle weakness, changes in lung capacity or medication use. People who are recurrent fallers have a higher number of diseases compared to non-fallers.

As you can see, fall prevention involves a variety of factors. Your medical provider can identify specific risk factors most important to your current health status. We encourage you to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss fall prevention.

Join a Workshop

SDSU Extension wants to help you avoid the chance of a life-changing fall. We offer a variety of evidence-based, community-led health education workshops to help you address factors that contribute to fall risk. Workshops are offered at no cost to participants. For more information and to register for a workshop, please visit the Good and Healthy South Dakota website.

Fall Prevention Tips

  • Reduce clutter. Remove rugs, or make sure they are safely in place. Ensure that any clutter (such as wires, cords, books, etc.) is removed from the walkway. Additionally, make sure walkways are well-lit.
  • Ensure handrails are well-secured on both sides of stairways.
  • Move any unreachable items to lower shelves or tables, or use a stable stepstool to reach items that are higher up.
  • In the bathroom, make sure that the bathmat is securely in place and install handrails near the bathtub/shower and near the toilet.
  • Make sure your home is free of any tripping hazards:
    • Move any cords from hallways or walkways.
    • Make sure walkways are free from furniture, and ensure that rugs are tacked down.
    • Store any needed objects within easy reach.
    • Repair loose floorboards, baseboards or carpeting to prevent trips.
  • Get ears and eyes checked regularly. Any slight change in sight or hearing can increase risk of fall.
  • Let your doctor know of any side effects of medications, such as dizziness or fatigue, that could cause a fall. Additionally, inform your doctor of any falls that have occurred since your last appointment, even if you were not hurt in the fall.
  • Use an assistive device, such as a walker or cane, if needed. Make sure the device is the right size and that it is in proper working condition.
  • Wear proper footwear that fits correctly and supports feet.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of falls. Light exercise, such as walking, keeps muscles strong and joints flexible.

Additional Resources

Related Topics

Aging Well