Each year, approximately one-third of adults over 65 who live in assisted living units or care homes experience a fall. Falls cause two-thirds of all unintentional injury deaths in older adults. A fall, with regards to health, is not funny and the consequences are not to be dismissed lightly.
FALLS AREN’T FUNNY
With those figures above in mind, looking to reduce the risk of falls is important for all society as a whole, let alone those who are elderly. Focusing on those risks before it’s too late is far more preferable, and it’s, unfortunately, a story that many people hear far too often about neighbours and relatives. Being aware of the risks is important and small changes can make quite a difference.
There are many reasons for falls.
- Impaired mental status (Dementia, Parkinson’s, and other such conditions)
- Polypharmacy (regular medication that has not been reviewed or been added to overtime)
- Use of “psychotropic” medications
- Environmental hazards (how safe is the home environment?)
- Poor vision (is your eyesight regularly checked?)
- Lower extremity weakness and/or dysfunction
- Impairments in balance and gait.
Maintaining mobility and keeping up physical activity
Keeping active through exercising such as walking and other activities like Tai chi or any gentle exercise program designed to strengthen the lower body is also beneficial. even gardening is considered a form of exercise and has many more benefits than just keeping fit. Exercise and activity are also more likely to happen if the person is in less pain, an important point to think about.
Walking sticks, thumbsticks, or Nordic walking poles.
Many people see the walking stick as a bad thing – a loss of independence, something to be put off for as long as possible, usually until it’s too late.
But if it can be thought of as something that can maintain independence and increase exercise and reduce the risk of injury then hopefully it is more of a welcome aid rather than a “loss of independence”
Environmental hazards at home
Reducing environmental hazards at home – really means adapting the home environment to reduce the risk of falls, for example:
- clear walkways from trip hazards (rugs/wires, etc)
- keep most of the things you use at waist height and above to reduce bending down
- don’t wear loose-fitting footwear indoors
- ensure there is sufficient light throughout the house for you to see clearly
- Looking carefully at the home – reducing trip hazards as well as considering other safety devices such as personal alarms are also good ideas to think about.
Polypharmacy and “psychotropic” medications
It’s useful to ensure there is a regular chance to review the medication you are on. It should be done regularly and GPs should be able to do this – even whilst we are in the current situation regarding getting appointments with GPs.
Sometimes the medication, whilst protecting the heart for example can cause dizziness with over-exertion and it is important to be aware of this and take it into account when being active.
Help is available not only for medication reviews but also if you need help with ensuring the home environment (above) is safe.
If necessary, you can ask your doctor for a medication review or a referral to an occupational therapist. Both can help reduce the risk of falls and can help with brainstorming other fall-prevention strategies.
Some solutions can be easily installed and relatively inexpensive at home. Others may require professional help or a larger investment, but that may be a beneficial cost in the long run for maintaining your independence.
The charity Age UK also provides plenty of advice for all, concerning risks of falls.
We understand that falls are traumatic, and that the risk can be reduced.
We can help people with advice and care to improve and maintain mobility and keep active. It is an important part of what we do. If you have any questions please email or call us on 01590679560 or [email protected]