How To Help An Elderly Person Get Up From a Fall

As loved ones get older, you will be faced with distinct challenges associated with aging. In the best of circumstances, your elderly family members are still able to live independently or mostly independently. But accidents happen, and perfectly healthy people can still struggle getting up from a fall. 

To help an elderly person get up from a fall, you need to remain calm, be patient, and carefully assist them up so as not to make things worse. Depending on the severity of the fall, it may not be advisable to move the person and to wait for professional assistance. 

Understanding how you can be the best possible help in a situation where an elderly person has fallen can be nerve wracking. We’ve put together this step by step guide on how to safely help someone back up so you can assist your loved ones carefully and efficiently.

What Should You Do If An Elderly Person Falls And Can’t Get Up?

Many people fear hearing that a loved one has fallen and can’t get up. It can be paralyzing and upsetting, but it is important to remain calm. The person who has fallen is likely already in distress, and your anxiety and nerves certainly won’t help to calm them down. Try to keep a level head and be the collected action oriented individual they need right now. 

The very first thing you need to do is to further assess the fall and the possible injuries. If both you and the senior citizen don’t suspect or detect any serious injury, particularly damage to the head, neck, or back, then you are likely safe to assist them up. You should still check in with a primary care physician after any fall to have a professional assessment for injuries. 

If you or the senior detect any serious injury, bleeding, or damage to the head, neck, or back, then you should call emergency services immediately. Do not attempt to move a person who you suspect may have experienced a neck or back injury. Damage to the spine can be worsened by moving the person without the proper equipment, such as a backboard. 

If you’ve assessed the situation and agree that the senior has not experienced any serious injury, then you can begin to help them back up. It isn’t quite as simple as just picking the person up and standing them on their feet. The human body doesn’t respond as well to stress as you age, so you need to be patient and follow the steps below. 

Step by Step Instructions for Helping an Elderly Person Get Up From a Fall

Before attempting the steps below, consider your own health and ability. Helping a senior up does require some strength and flexibility of your own, so please do not attempt to do so if you do not consider yourself to be strong enough. You could end up hurting yourself in the process. If you don’t feel strong enough, call emergency services and paramedics will help. 

If you do feel strong enough to help the senior up, then you will want to follow the steps below to help them stand back up.

Calm the Situation

As mentioned before, a fall is stressful. The person who has fallen will likely be feeling some amount of distress. Try to bring the energy down to a more neutral level. You will be able to better help the person if both you and the senior are feeling calm.

Assess for Injuries

We stated above the importance of checking for injuries. If there are visible injuries, such as bleeding or broken bones, then you should immediately call for emergency services assistance. If you are able, then try to make the person more comfortable while waiting for emergency services through any basic first aid.

If you and the individual agree that there are no serious injuries, then you can proceed to helping them up. A primary care physician should still be contacted anytime an elderly person has fallen, and an appointment should be made to check for any unseen or internal injuries. 

Clear Objects From the Surrounding Area

Create space around the person and yourself so you won’t have to deal with possible trip hazards or other interference while assisting them. In the event that any debris was created from their fall, such as a broken glass, then carefully clean the area of any of these objects. 

Position Chairs or Furniture for Assistance

Find two sturdy chairs or other similar pieces of furniture. If the person has fallen near a couch or table, you may be able to use these pieces instead of a chair. If they have fallen in the middle of the floor, then get two sturdy chairs and place one by the seniors feet and the other by their head. Chairs that don’t slide will work best for this. 

Help Roll the Elderly Person onto Their Side

Assuming the person has fallen and is on their back or stomach, you will need to assist them in getting onto their side. This is a more comfortable position for breathing, and it will be much easier to help them stand back up from this position. Gently ease them to their side by placing a hand under their head and another hand on their lower body. 

Once you’ve helped them onto their side, position the upper leg in front of the lower leg, with a slight bend in the knee. They should then position their upper arm with the palm on the floor. They will use this hand to push themselves up to a kneeling position on their hands and knees. If they have sore knees, then position a towel under their knees to ease some of the pain. 

Adjust the First Chair By Their Head

Once the senior has gotten themselves into a kneeling position, reposition the chairs so that they are near their head and feet still. They will use these chairs to continue getting up, so carefully position them so they aren’t in the way, but are still accessible. 

Use the Chairs To Assist In Getting Up

At this point, the senior should be firmly on their hands and knees, with a chair positioned very close to their head. Help them support their body weight in this position as needed. Coach them into placing their hands firmly on the chair beside their head one hand at a time. 

Once their hands are firmly on the chair, or other piece of furniture, they should use the chair to support as they rise to a kneeling position. Once they’ve risen to kneeling, with their hands on the chair instead of the ground, they may need to take a second and rest right here. If they feel lightheaded, let them catch their breath before moving on. 

Adjust the Second Chair By Their Feet

Once the senior has reached a comfortable kneeling position, you need to move the second chair that you previously placed by their feet. Bring it behind the senior and place it as close as is comfortable. They will eventually be rising to sit into this chair, so it should be close enough to comfortably sit down, if they stood right now. 

Guide Them Into Sitting In the Chair

Check in and find out if the senior has a stronger leg. As bodies age, it is pretty typical for some parts of the body to operate a bit better than others depending on use. If they have a stronger leg, or a “good” leg, then that will be the first one they move.

Guide the senior to move their “good” leg forward from the kneeling position so that their foot is planted on the ground and they are kneeling on one knee. At this point they should have two hands on the chair in front of them, a foot planted on the ground, and a knee on the ground. 

Guide the senior to use their arms on the chair and their planted foot to start pushing themselves up. They should be able to plant the second foot after rising a bit. Help them rise up slowly. There is no need to rush through this and worsen any injuries. 

They don’t have to successfully stand on the way up. They simply need to get high enough so that they can sit back into the chair behind them. Be sure to brace this chair as they come down so it doesn’t move out from under them. 

Reassess for Injuries and Contact Medical Professionals

According to the CDC, one out of four people over 65 years of age fall each year, but less than half of them tell their doctor. Falls can be extremely dangerous to older people, so even if you don’t believe there are any serious injuries, you should always check with a doctor. 

Once the senior is comfortably seated in the chair, check in again for any injuries. It is possible that minor injuries could have been made worse while trying to get up. If everything still appears okay, then proceed to contact a primary care physician and schedule a non-emergency check up to ensure safety. 

In the event that any minor injury was made worse while getting up, then you should contact emergency medical services immediately. Stay with the person until emergency medical services arrive and fill them in about how you helped the person up. The more information they have, the more effectively they can do their jobs and ensure safety. 

How Serious Is a Fall for an Elderly Person

According to the CDC, millions of elderly people, defined as age 65 and older, fall each year. Aging bones and muscles struggle to remain quite as resilient in the face of this stress, and it is important to take a senior fall seriously. 

The CDC has collected a lot of valuable data related to falls among seniors. Being aware of the risks can help to ease the damage of a fall, and possibly prevent a fall altogether. There are any number of possible problems that could happen from a fall.

  • Broken bones: Falls can often result in broken bones in high impact, sensitive areas including wrists, hips, arms, and ankles.
  • Head Injuries: Many elderly people take prescription blood thinners. These blood thinners can make head injuries even more dangerous than the average head trauma. Any head injury should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible.
  • Fear and Anxiety: Experiencing a fall can create an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety that stops the person from engaging in many activities. A more stagnant lifestyle leads to a further weakening of the body, and will actually make getting up from a fall more difficult. 

Visible injuries are the easiest to quickly assess, but internal injuries are very possible and very dangerous. It is important to listen to the concerns of the person who has fallen and acknowledge any possible internal injuries

The most common injury from a fall is a hip fracture. “More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.” A hip replacement is an intensive and expensive procedure. They are considered fairly safe and commonplace in American medicine, but that doesn’t make the idea any less scary. 

What Risk Factors May Contribute to a Fall for an Elderly Person?

Whale anyone could experience the accident of falling, there are some underlying risk factors that make certain people more susceptible to this experience. If you or a loved one fall into any of the following categories, then you should create a plan and be prepared for the possibility of a fall. 

  • Weakening legs, feet, and lower body.
  • Lack of Vitamin D.
  • Balance or mobility problems.
  • Side effects of medications. Prescriptions and over the counter medicines could affect strength and balance.
  • Problems with eyesight.
  • Chronic foot pain or poorly fitted footwear.
  • Uneven or old staircases and floors
  • Throw rugs and home trip hazards

Any one of these risk factors is a contributing element when it comes to a elderly person falling. The more of these risk factors that are present, then the more likely the person is to experience a fall. However, there are certainly other possible risk factors, and lacking any of these risk factors does not mean that a person will never experience a fall. 

What Steps Can You Take To Minimize an Elderly Person’s Fall Risk?

Not every fall is a preventable accident, but there are definitely some health and safety measures a person can take to minimize the possibility of a fall. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one falling, then you should consider taking some of the steps below to minimize the risk. 

Talk to a Doctor

Check in with a primary care physician about the risk of a fall. They will be able to assess your personal risk or the risk of a loved one based on your general health and habits. If you are taking any medication regularly, then also check with them about potential side effects that may elevate your risk. 

You can also talk to your doctor about Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem and can easily be combated with readily available supplements. 

Strength and Balance Training

As we age, we tend to shy away from some of the more active parts of life that younger people engage in. But it is important to remain active as your body gets older. High intensity exercises are usually not an option for the elderly, but low impact strength and balance training are great places to start. 

Tai Chi is a popular activity among many elderly folks. This practice focuses on building balance and strength throughout the body. Targeting your lower body is important to ensure that you are able to support yourself in your old age. Try to maintain a regular routine of stretching and balance training to minimize the risk of a fall. 

Schedule an Eye Exam

Visual impairment often worsens with age. Seeing an eye doctor at least once a year is a great way to ensure that you are keeping up to date with any visual changes you may be experiencing. Poor eyesight often leads to tripping and falling, so be sure you are always up to date with your prescription. 

Build a Safer Home

Small home improvements can go a long way towards preventative care. Remove trip hazards, such as loose throw rugs. Add grab bars in the bathroom, both inside and outside of the shower, and beside the toilet. Stairs should have double sided railings for added support. Replace any dim light bulbs with high efficiency, ultra bright LEDs.

Just those few simple steps around the house will make things safer and easier for an elderly person to continue living as independently as they please. There are certainly other steps a person could take within their home, but those are best assessed on a personal level. 

Support Elderly Folks Who Have Fallen

An elderly loved falling and needing help getting up is a nightmare for many people. It is hard watching our family members grow older, but the best thing you can do is be prepared. Talk with elderly family members about the possibility of a fall. Millions experience it every year, and it is better to be ready than not.

Familiarize yourself with the process of helping the person up and make a plan for what should happen if they fall. Take some steps to minimize the risks around the house and in their lifestyle. The best way to support an elderly person when they fall is to be prepared for it. 

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this Blog article are not intended to amount to advice, and you should not rely on any of the contents of this Blog article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this Blog article. OccupationaltherapyBlog disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this Blog article. 


How To Lift The Elderly Off The Floor – Step By Step Instructions


I'm a Neurological Occupational Therapist and Founder of HT Neuro Rehab an Holistic & Person-Centred Adult Rehabilitation in London. I"m fully registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT). I have founded HT Neuro Rehab to provide clinical Occupational Therapy services to adults with neurological conditions, brain injuries, major trauma, upper limb retraining and rehabilitation, Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness (PDoC) and Functional Neurological Disorders (FND). My practice provides support, training, and guidance to both the patient and their families and caregivers. My goal is to enable each patient to achieve their personal ability, mobility, and independence goals while cultivating a long-term support network that is capable and prepared to engage in the rehabilitation journey.

Recent Posts