By Lisa O’Neill Hill

 

Originally published in the StrokeSmart® newsletter, October 2014. Reprinted by permission. You can read the article with illustrations on the StrokeSmart website.

 

Many stroke survivors have problems with balance and have an increased risk of falling.

 

A fall, even if it doesn’t cause injury, can be scary and shocking. It can rattle your nerves. If you fall, try not to panic. Take deep breaths and try to remain calm. It’s OK to remain still for a few minutes to collect yourself.

 

If you are in pain and you have a phone within reach, call 911, said Jill Oltrogge, a physical therapist at Life Care Center of Littleton in Colorado.

 

“I wouldn’t want somebody to try to get up if their hip was hurting for fear it was broken or if they hit their head,” she said.

 

If you’re not hurt, Oltrogge advises trying to crawl to a kitchen table, a couch or something else you could use to pull yourself up with. Avoid anything with wheels or anything flimsy. If you fall outside, you could use a parked car.

 

“It’s a really wise thing, especially if you are recovering from a stroke, to have a form of communication, a way to reach somebody,” she said. She suggests carrying a cell phone or using a medical alert device. People who use walkers should keep a cell phone in a bag attached to the walker.

 

Follow these tips for getting up safely. Getting up from a fall means using the strong side of your body to support your weak side.

 

Step 1: Sit on your bottom with the side of your body that wasn’t affected by the stroke near a heavy chair, a mattress, or something else that won’t move.

 

Step 2: Put your forearm on the chair, leaning on your elbow or hand. Push forward onto your knees. Lift your hips until you are kneeling.

 

Step 3: Using your strong arm, bring your strong foot forward and put it flat on the floor.

 

Step 4: Lift yourself up by pushing off with your strong arm and leg. Twist your hips toward the chair or mattress and sit down.

 

A final note: It’s a good idea to practice how to fall. If you are still in physical therapy and your therapist hasn’t taught you fall recovery, ask about it, Oltrogge said.