What's the best way to lower someone to the floor if they are falling?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I need guidelines for the safest way to lower someone to the floor if/when I'm walking with them and they start to fall. This person is weak from illness and refuses to wear a belt.

Expert Answer

Bonita Lynn Beattie is the vice president for injury prevention for the Center for Healthy Aging, part of the National Council on Aging (NCOA). She directs the NCOA's Falls Free Initiative, which is developing and implementing a national action plan to prevent falls and fall-related injuries in older adults.

Thank you for your inquiry "“ you are right to be concerned since lowering someone incorrectly to the floor can result in injury to both of you.

You have described a difficult situation given the state of weakness and the refusal to wear a safety belt. What I do not know from your question is the size, age and physical conditioning difference between you both which makes it difficult to address this situation or to pose safe lowering strategies using sound body mechanics.

Since this person of concern is already subject to potentially injurious falls he/she should be evaluated for appropriate exercise and strengthening activities. Is he/she receiving physical therapy as part of the recovery from illness? If not, I would recommend you ask your doctor about a referral a physical therapist who will be in the best position to teach you both appropriate transfer and walking strategies, and to evaluate him/her for the use of a walker that could increase stability until strength and balance through prescribed exercises are recovered. As experts in restoring motion and mobility in people's lives, physical therapists work collaboratively with physicians to ensure safe recoveries from illness or injury.

Another important consideration is the safety of the environment in which you are walking "“ assessing your home and making appropriate modifications such as adding additional (low glare) lighting, removing clutter and other potential tripping hazards as well as adding grab bars may help to reduce fall risks. The CDC has a simple home safety assessment tool that will help you to identify potential hazards "“ it is available in multiple languages and easily accessible from the web. To find this tool as well as a general fall prevention brochure go to [cdc.gov/] (http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/fallsmaterial.html).