From Inactive to Active Too Fast: Go Slow to Avoid a Fall

        Arif Hussain, DO, talks about the risk of falling after a period of isolation and how to stay safe and strong post-COVID.
        After months of isolation and quarantine, post-acute and long-term care facility residents will start to be more mobile as pandemic restrictions begin to ease. Before getting back to walks, dancing, or other activities, it is important to realize that muscle weakness and deconditioning may have occurred due to months of limited mobility. This means an increased risk of falling. Talk to your loved one’s practitioner about how to get back in action safely.
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        Using a cane or a walker may help older individuals return to physical activity safely.
        If your loved one can’t get out, there are activities that can be done at home — whether it’s a single room or apartment. These include leg/arm lifts while in a seated position (with/without light weighted items), getting up out of a chair and sitting down, taking a few steps, and/or light stretching. These should be done with a caregiver’s supervision.
        To further limit the risk of falls, keep your loved one’s surroundings free of clutter and tripping hazards such as loose rugs or uneven flooring. Well-fitting shoes with no loose laces and nonslip soles are also important. Have your loved one’s vision tested regularly, and make sure rooms and hallways have good lighting.
        As tempting as it may be to get back into action quickly, a fall could sideline you or your loved one for months and result in long-term disability or even death. Taking a slow, measured approach to resuming activity after a pandemic will keep your loved one safe — and active — over time

        Questions to Ask the Practitioner:

        • How do you assess my loved one’s risk for falling?
        • Does having a previous fall or injury (such as a broken leg or hip) put my loved one at a greater risk for falling and being injured?
        • What kinds of foods help increase energy and keep muscles and bones strong?
        • What can be done to increasing range of motion?

        What You Can Do:

        • Have your loved one use a walker, cane, or other assistive device as needed.
        • Keep a night-light on in the bathroom in case your loved one gets up in the middle of the night.
        • Tell your practitioner right away if your loved one has any dizziness, weakness, pain, shortness of breath, or other issues.
        • Talk to the practitioner about any specific goals your loved one has for mobility — such as the ability to walk your dog, or wanting to dance at a grandchild’s wedding.
        • Have your loved one participate in physical or other therapy as prescribed/needed.

        For More Information:

        • “In-Home Exercises for Seniors to Stay Active During the Quarantine,” Assisting Hands (blog), April 28, 2020.
        • Joanne Kaldy, “Keeping Residents Active Can Forestall Falls,” Provider, June 2020.
        • Caroline Wellbery, “Muscle Weakness as a Risk Factor for Falls in the Elderly,” Am Fam Physician 2005;71(9):1791.