How can we break the cycle of fear of falling?

It’s been the warmest December since records began in 1910 and the wettest month ever recorded in the UK, causing widespread flooding and devastation. Now we’re into an icy January and many older people are concerned about slipping, falling and other dangers related to the weather. Even more alarming, is the news from climate scientists that this fluctuation in extreme weather will become the norm over the next 2 decades.

 Staying sedentary can be lethal

So what does this mean for our families? Well, staying independent as we get older can be a challenge at the best of times and extreme weather conditions mean that independence can be even more of a struggle. It is, however, a struggle which must be made. Research has now proven that a sedentary lifestyle hastens the onset and development of diseases like dementia and alzheimers, meaning a frighteningly quick progression: sedentary lifestyle – in-home care – care home – rapidly declining health/fatality.

According to the British Medical Journal[1], fear, especially fear of falling after one has fallen already, is the biggest factor to overcome. This extends to fear of not being able to get help, fear of getting into difficult situations and even fear of being a burden on families. These fears then become a cycle, which lead many vulnerable adults into worsening ill health and a decline in both confidence and mobility.

 How to break the cycle of fear

Luckily there are a few things which we can all do to help break that cycle of fear:

 Check in

  • A quick call or text as soon as a destination is reached, or when a relative arrives safely back home, is a vital habit to get into.
  • Visibility is key to safety, and may be the difference between life and death if an emergency should happen. It’s worth checking in physically, in person, as often as possible.
  • However if that’s not practical there are other solutions. For example, if you live far away, why not ask a neighbor for help and offer to do the same for someone living near to you?

 Stay Social, Stay Active

  • Keeping a full calendar of social activities is a good way to ensure a high level of movement. Local councils, housing associations and many charities often list social events on their websites. But if spending a long time at home can’t be avoided, there are numerous exercises that can be done in the home. Have a look at some helpful exercise which you do at home HERE link to MAP exercises

Use Technology

Advances in technology, even in the last decade, now mean that it is easier than ever before to stay in touch with loved ones, check in, and get help in an emergency. There are a variety of phones available on the market specifically for older users, i.e. Doro phone[2], even emergency apps for smartphone users. However, even simpler than that are pendant alarms specifically designed with a checking in function like My SoS Family’s “SoS Angel” pendant alarm. Not only does it work outside the home, but it also has an SoS function which allows the user to contact everyone in their network immediately if required. (see www.mysosfamily.com)

Have an Action Plan

Having an emergency action plan is required by law for lone workers who work in high-risk situations, but is often overlooked by families caring for vulnerable relatives, who are often at even greater risk. Staying active and making sure other people know where you are is vital, but having a phone, pendant or other device is crucial for both tracking and communication in an emergency situation. The key thing to remember is to find a solution which works for you and your family. There are all kinds of gadgets and technology available to assist our relatives in breaking the cycle of fear, so it is important when searching to be clear what your outcomes are. There are many gimmicks, but a device or service is only useful if it does what you need it to. Luckily, new assistive technology can be manufactured more inexpensively, meaning that you can get a lot more support for a lot less money if you know where to look!

 

Alfie Jones works for My SoS Family and is passionate about helping people to stay safe and live independent lives. alfie@mysosfamily.org

www.mysosfamily.org

 

 

[1] BMJ-British Medical Journal. “Fear of falling linked to future falls in older people.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100819214609.htm>.

[2] http://www.doro.co.uk

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