The risk of falling is high in the elderly and fall related problems rises with age. It is an inevitable part of aging. Approximately more than one in three people age 65 years or older falls each year, increasing to half of those aged 80 and over. In around 5% of cases a fall leads to fracture and hospitalisation.
Many of our Service Users are elderly, so it is appropriate to raise awareness to reduce the risk of falling here, as preventing falls is important for the health and wellbeing of those we care for.
Once you have had a wobble or fallen, it could knock your confidence and you can overcome the fear of falling by staying active, both in body and mind.
Below are some hints and tips to continue being active to maintain an active lifestyle, prevent future falls and to continue to enjoy life. Activities such as getting together with friends, gardening, walking, or joining a local club such as the Getting Together Clubs in South West Hertfordshire helps you stay healthy.
- Stay physically active. Regular exercise improves muscles and makes you stronger. It also helps keep your joints, tendons, and ligaments flexible. Mild weight-bearing activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, may slow bone loss from osteoporosis. Try to get at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity.
- Maintain bone health. Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones weak and more likely to break. For people with osteoporosis, even a minor fall may be dangerous. Smoking and alcohol can decrease bone mass and increase the chance of fractures. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D can help keep your bones strong.
- Physiotherapists can visit you at home and perform an assessment to design an exercise programme for you, starting with some simple exercises. To find a professional physiotherapists near you, visit The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
- Have your eyes and hearing tested. Even small changes in sight and hearing may cause you to fall. When you get new eyeglasses or contact lenses, take time to get used to them. Always wear your glasses or contacts when you need them if you have a hearing aid, be sure it fits well and wear it.
- Find out about the side effects of any medicine you take. If a drug makes you sleepy or dizzy, tell your doctor or pharmacist.
- Get enough sleep. If you are sleepy, you are more likely to fall.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your balance and reflexes.
- Stand up slowly. Getting up too quickly can cause your blood pressure to drop. That can make you feel wobbly. Get your blood pressure checked when lying and standing.
- Use an assistive device or mobility aid if you need help feeling steady when you walk. Appropriate use of canes, walkers, rollators or a walking frame can prevent falls. Make sure it is the right size for you and if they have wheels, the wheels roll smoothly. This is important when you're walking in areas you don't know well or where the walkways are uneven.
- Occupational Therapists can help you overcome obstacles and barriers to increase your independence. They can assess, recommend and organise aids for your home, e.g. where to install grab bars or handrails, bath seats. To find an independent occupational therapist near you, visit The Royal Society of Occupational Therapists.
- Be very careful when walking on wet or icy surfaces. They can be very slippery! Try to have sand or salt spread on icy areas by your front or back door. Be careful when you get in and out of a shower or bath.
- Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes, or lace-up shoes with non-skid soles that fully support your feet. It is important that the soles are not too thin or too thick. Don't walk on stairs or floors in socks or in shoes and slippers with smooth soles.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being underweight increases the risk of bone loss and broken bones.
- Always tell your GP if you have fallen since your last check-up, even if you were not hurt when you fell. A fall can alert your doctor to a new medical problem or problems with your medications. Your doctor may suggest steps to help prevent future falls.
What to do if you do fall
A sudden fall can be startling and upsetting. If you do fall, stay as calm as possible. Take several deep breaths to try to relax.
- Remain still on the floor or ground for a few moments. This will help you get over the shock of falling.
- Decide if you are hurt before getting up. Getting up too quickly or in the wrong way could make an injury worse.
- If you think you can get up safely without help, roll over onto your side. Rest again while your body and blood pressure adjust. Slowly get up on your hands and knees, and crawl to a sturdy chair or support.
- Put your hands on the chair seat or support and slide one foot forward so that it is flat on the floor. Keep the other leg bent so the knee is on the floor. From this kneeling position, slowly rise and turn your body to sit in the chair.
- If you are hurt or cannot get up on your own, ask someone for help or call 911. If you are alone, try to get into a comfortable position and wait for help to arrive.
- Carrying a mobile or portable phone with you could make it easier to call someone if you need assistance.
- If you live alone, an emergency response system at home, which lets you push a button on a special necklace or bracelet (sometimes known as a lifeline) to call for help, is another option.
Other conditions which increases the risk of falling
Falling can also be a result of other conditions or disorders such as:
- Chronic pain
- Parkinson’s disease
- Anemia or other blood disorders
- Thyroid problems
- Foot disorders
- Muscle weakness in the legs, e.g. due to a drop foot, nerve conditions which damage muscles
- Multiple sclerosis (MS) which can cause sudden paralysis
- Vertigo (dizziness) or balance difficulties
- Sensory disorders, such as vision or hearing problems, or neuropathy (numbness) in the legs and feet
- Brain or mood disorders, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, delirium, depression, or psychotic behaviour
- Urinary incontinence or having to urinate so frequently frequency that it requires numerous urgent trips to the bathroom (sometimes too late)
- Urinary infection
- Dehydration (lack of fluids in your body). We tend to lose water as we get older. Dehydration produces hypotension (low blood pressure) which can bring on a fall. Dehydration can also cause confusion, loss of balance, constipation, and many other unwelcome symptoms. You can become dehydrated without realizing it if the weather is warm, if you take diuretics (‘water tablets’).
- Some medication can make you drowsy, hence cause loss of balance
- Low vitamin D
If you need a little help with your daily routines to prevent falls, we are able to provide a range of Services to help you with your mobility, e.g. getting in and out of bed, taking a shower or a bath, encouraging you with your physio exercises, accompanying you to the shops, GP and other activities. For a full range of our Services, please Contact Us.