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HORIZON BLOG

Why The Questions About Falling?

Question 

I am an extremely healthy 65-year-old and on every visit to a doctor I am asked about falling. I am expected to keep track of how many times I fell in the last year and provide that number. I do not keep track of every time I fall.  

I think it is silly to assume that I fall at all. At 65 I am working, biking, or running daily, and active in my community. I am not keeping a record of another thing. I have enough to do without worrying about that. 

Why is it so important if I fall? Doesn’t everyone fall on occasion?

-Reader 

  

Answer 

The short answer to your question is a yes. If you are walking around, the odds are that on occasion you will fall to the floor. For someone like yourself, the falls are infrequent and usually caused by something external, such as missing a step on a stair, tripping on an object in your path, slipping on an unexpected wet floor, or miss stepping on a bumpy path. There is typically a bit of distraction going on as well that contributes to the fall. You might be carrying something, drinking, talking on your phone, or even walking your dog at the same time. Falls like that happen to everyone on occasion. Usually so infrequently that you cannot remember when they occurred unless you had a significant injury.   

It is the type of falls that I just described but with some frequency, plus simply losing your balance and falling, when it becomes a health concern. Falling can be important to the diagnosis of some diseases. While it is annoying to be asked about how often you fall, your health care provider would be remiss in not asking.  

The funny thing about falling is that the people that rarely fall, like yourself, will rack their brain trying to remember how often they fell in the last year and the people with a real problem will dismiss the question and deny that they fell at all.  

What is important is that you get excellent health care. That is the whole point in getting regular medical checkups to protect health and catch issues early so they can be effectively treated. The question about falling is merely a screening question, so your provider can dial in and explore the cause, if you fall frequently.  

If your balance is poor, you find yourself reaching for chairs or counters to steady yourself, you must think about navigating a single step without a handrail, or you are having trouble getting up from sitting; it is then time to have a discussion with your doctor. Depending on your age there are norms that you can be measured against. Poor balance at 98 years is quite common, with a very high risk of falling. The same is not true for a 65-year-old.   

The next time you are asked about falling, take a moment and give it your best honest guess and then let it go. If you find that you are losing your balance and falling in situations that you did not before, it is time for an honest discussion with your doctor, regardless of what the screening question asks. Yes, it is scary to admit something is not right, but it will be comforting to know what to do about it. People who are active participants and advocate for themselves get the best healthcare has to offer. 

 

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