Preventing Falls for People With Intellectual Disability
Falls can cause injuries that make it hard to live as independently as possible. Equally important, many people who fall once develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to be inactive, which only increases risk of falling in the future.
According to findings from over 1,400 adults with ID, 18 percent* fell at home in the past year. While many consider falling an issue only for older adults (ages 65 or older), of whom 33 percent report falling each year, these findings came from respondents ages 14 or older. This implies that people with ID of all ages may be more likely to fall and may need more help to avoid falls at home.
Luckily, falling is preventable.
There are many steps that people with ID, family, friends, and staff can take to decrease the chance of falling.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise – Doing exercises that improve leg strength and balance are especially beneficial for reducing rates of falls. Tai Chi programs are especially helpful. The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) and Disabled Sports USA offers examples of Tai Chi movements for people with disabilities.
- Review medications with doctors/pharmacists – Medicines may be causing side effects like dizziness or drowsiness that may cause people to fall.
- Visit the eye doctor – Having eyes checked and a prescription updated once a year can help ensure that a person sees any potential falling hazard in his/her way.
- Make the home and The Arc safer – Adding grab bars inside/outside a tub or shower and next to a toilet, adding railings on both sides of the stairways or improving lighting in a home or building can lessen the risk of falls.
- Connect with falls prevention programs – One great resource center is the National Falls Prevention Resource Center, which provides falls prevention materials for families and professionals. This Center also supports grantees addressing falls prevention issues in local communities. Any chapter of The Arc interested in falls prevention for people with ID is encouraged to connect with these grantees to find out more on how to work together to prevent falls in local communities!
*These findings come from The Arc’s HealthMeet project.
HealthMeet aims to reduce health disparities experienced by people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) so they can live a longer and healthier life. Through free health assessments and training, HealthMeet helps people with I/DD learn about their health needs. HealthMeet also offers training to improve public, health professional, and caregiver awareness of health issues faced by people with I/DD. HealthMeet is supported through at $1 million cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information on the HealthMeet project, contact Jennifer Sladen at firstname.lastname@example.org.