Talking about preventing falls

Discussing falls with the older adult is the first step in preventing falls.

The most important point to make in your conversations is that most falls are preventable.

Focus on understanding the older adult's point of view, so you can work together to find ways to reduce their risk of falling.

Like other home safety topics, falls can bring up strong emotions. Older adults might feel:

  • Afraid that if they admit they fell or worry about falling, they might lose their independence

  • Insulted that you think they might be at risk of falling

  • Embarrassed that they feel clumsy or weak, or in need of help

  • Skeptical that falls prevention activities might benefit them

  • Reluctant to take part in falls prevention programs

If the older adult has a negative reaction, try to understand why. Don't challenge them on their health or physical abilities. Instead, acknowledge their emotions. Stress that you want to help them avoid a very common and often serious safety problem.

Good conversation starters are facts about falls, opportunities to reduce fall risks, and friends' or family members' experiences:

  • "Did you know that 1 out of 4 older adults falls each year in the U.S.? But most falls can be prevented."

  • "I read that falls cause many injuries and hospitalizations for older adults. Do you want to find out how to reduce your fall risk?"

  • "I saw that the community center has Tai Chi classes. That's a great exercise for balance and has other health benefits. Are you interested?"

  • "I was thinking the other day about when Vicky fell. Do you ever worry about falling?"

Sometimes it helps to start discussing specific ways to prevent falls right away. Other times, it makes sense to spend time talking about falls or concerns more generally. Follow the older adult's lead.