Post-fall syndrome in older adults

Post-fall syndrome is a complex condition that requires understanding on the part of those around the elderly. It is not advisable to let this state progress, as it can reduce the quality of life of the affected person.

Last update: September 25, 2021

Post-fall syndrome in older adults is a condition that, as the name implies, occurs after a fall. It has to do with the fear that this generates to suffer a new fall. This often leads to consequences in the physical and psychosocial order.

It is estimated that around 30% of people over 65 suffer an annual fall. Among those over 75, it increases to 35% and for those over 80 the figure is 50%. How it looks, post-fall syndrome is a problem that can affect many older people.

Consequences of fear of falling

Post-fall syndrome affects a large percentage of adults who have suffered an accident.

Post-fall syndrome, or fear of falling again, causes important consequences in the life of the elderly. These manifest themselves in various planes of their lives and can be very serious.. The main effects of this condition are as follows.

Physical consequences

One of the most important consequences of post-fall syndrome occurs on the physical plane. It is very common that the fear of falling again leads to a marked reduction in mobility. In general, those who suffer from this condition become more static and sedentary.

In those cases, the older adult acquires the habit of sitting for a long time, or even lying down. Avoid spaces where there is no support and also avoid stairs or other structures that pose an obstacle or risk.

In time, that stillness leads to loss of muscle mass, difficulties in walking and leads to a cycle of physical deterioration. Skills are progressively lost and this further increases post-fall syndrome or fear of falling.

Psychological consequences

The most obvious psychological consequence of post-fall syndrome is the loss of self-confidence.. Many times the older adult had to stay on the floor for a while before being helped. Other times he was forced to go to the hospital and was afraid of dying.

All this causes insecurity to develop or increase in what it is capable of. For this reason, it is usual for you to feel that you need the continuous help of others, even if objectively this is not the case. This reduces their autonomy and promotes dependence on others.

In those with post-fall syndrome, there are also traits of anxiety and depression. Also, signs of confusion and disorientation may appear. Thus, a process of restrictions begins in daily life that leads to a deterioration in the quality of life.

Social consequences

The social consequences of post-fall syndrome are also very noticeable. In the first place, as already mentioned, this condition fosters the bonds of dependency. Too it is usual that it induces people in the environment to overprotect the elderly, which increases the lack of autonomy.

The habitual stillness and insecurity they tend to lead the elderly to limit their social contacts. This can lead to a state of progressive isolation that increases the symptoms of depression and, in addition, causes cognitive deterioration.

Under these conditions, the probability of developing disabilities or dementia increases. Even if that point is not reached, life is still impoverished and this manifests itself in the physical and mental health of the older adult.

How to overcome post-fall syndrome in older adults?

Overcoming post-fall syndrome is vital to maintaining a good quality of life.

It is important to be aware that an older adult will need support, understanding and motivation after suffering a fall. Ideally, you should not wait too long to start interventions to help you overcome post-fall syndrome.

One of the tools that has shown great effectiveness in these cases is Beck's Cognitive Therapy. It is based on the idea that it is necessary to achieve gradual successes to get the affected person to change the negative opinion they have of themselves, improve their expectations and reduce the symptoms of depression.

One of the most effective techniques in this type of therapy is called "chaining." It consists of setting a general behavioral objective and then dividing it into subunits; that is to say, in minor goals, each one of them very simple.

To apply this technique, it is appropriate to observe this sequence:

  • The motivation. It is important that the person feel motivated to carry out the process by himself and not by pressure from others. To do this, understanding, affection and enthusiasm are essential.
  • Explanation. It consists of describing the action to be carried out. For example, walking from the bed to the bedroom door.
  • Verification. The older adult must explain in his own words what action he is going to take. You must identify any possible problems or obstacles that you may encounter when taking the action.
  • Increase complexity. Each goal must be achieved and once exceeded, increase the complexity. If required, he should be helped to achieve the goal at first, no matter how simple, until he feels encouraged to do it alone.
  • Reinforcement. It is very important to highlight the achievements and help you to value all the successes that you are obtaining.
  • Change perspective. Emphasis should be placed on the abilities of the patient so that he can modify the idea he has of himself as someone limited.
  • Evaluate. While progressing in the process, it should be evaluated if the person will need help to move around or if it is necessary to reinforce the process with physical exercises to strengthen their muscles.

Prevent post-fall syndrome

After the fall, the most important thing is to identify the cause and correct it. The environment of an older adult must be safe, so all risks must be minimized. It is also important that adequate physical rehabilitation is carried out.

If post-fall syndrome appears, the most advisable thing is that this does not give rise to begin to overprotect the elderly. Rather, they should be encouraged to re-trust themselves and maintain their autonomy.