Many of us have fears of different things; sometimes those fears can cause us to over think situations which can result in our fears coming true. I was recently traveling to one of our communities, which I am always afraid of getting lost. Inevitably, each time I go there I get lost. Am I so fearful that I cause myself to get lost? We all know the feelings; you are in unfamiliar territory, concerned you will be late, thinking to yourself, will I ever find my way? Those feelings of anxiety and panic quickly set in, as I try to get back on course.
It may seem silly to have these feelings, but it certainly is a simple truth, one that relates quite well to this British Medical Journal study and one we certainly see quite a bit in our communities. What is silly to one is certainly not silly to another. For older adults there is this fear of hip fracture, as we age, for various reasons, many of us will become unsteady and unbalanced. To help with this fear and to support our residents, several years ago we implemented Fall Proof® classes in our wellness programming and communities. The classes help our residents to improve their kinesthetic awareness and ability to walk. The balance of muscles in the legs, back and midsection are all targeted, while improving confidence. Better balance techniques and awareness can significantly reduce the risk of a fall resulting in a serious injury. We’ve been able to demonstrate that this high level awareness has made a significant difference to our residents. While we can’t always eliminate a fall, we can reduce our resident’s fears and prepare them on the best way to fall, reducing the likeliness of serious injury. This is just one outcome, training for a fall, can also be liberating helping the resident’s to feel more secure and limiting the potential for social isolation.
British Medical Journal Study “Older Adults can find it difficult to recover from falls. Being frightened of falling over is likely to increase an old person’s risk of having a fall, researchers have found. The link remained even when they were not actually at a high risk, the study in the British Medical Journal found. The Australian and Belgian researchers said anxieties should be taken into account when assessing someone’s risk of falling. “Despite clear evidence that falls can be reduced through improving people’s strength and balance, there is a chronic shortage of these services” Michelle Mitchell Fear of falling is common in older people and is associated with poor balance, anxiety, depression and falls. But the team of researchers from Australia and Belgium said not enough emphasis had been given to the effect of irrational fears on falls. During the year-long study, 43% (214) reported one or more falls. In reality, those in the “anxious” group had a low risk of falls – but perceived their risk as high. This was linked to an increased likelihood of depressive symptoms, neurotic personality traits and poor physical health. Almost 40% of this group had several falls over the year of the study. In contrast, the “stoic” group had a high physical risk of falling but did not think they did. Only one in three experienced one or more falls. The researchers found this outlook offered some protection against falling and was related to a positive outlook on life, physical activity, and community participation.
Writing in the BMJ, the researchers, led by Dr Stephen Lord from the University of New South Wales, said: “Excessive fear of falling can lead to needless restriction in participation in physical and social activities, resulting in physical deconditioning, poor quality of life, social isolation, depression and psychological distress.” They said strategies aimed at reducing fear of falling – such as cognitive behavioral therapy – should be implemented for those who were anxious. Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: “It’s well known that fear of falling among older people and those who care for them reduces people’s quality of life and wellbeing and can lead to isolation and loneliness. “Yet despite clear evidence that falls can be reduced through improving people’s strength and balance, there is a chronic shortage of these services across the country.” In the end, awareness and “training” makes a difference. We can learn that we can’t live life worrying about the “what ifs”, but we can be better prepared for the “what ifs” when and should they happen.