Preventing Falls at Home
Reduce the Risk and Remove the Fear
If you have ever known anyone fall and sustain an injury at home then you will be aware that the path can be long and full of hurdles. As with many aspects of health, prevention is better than cure - we don't want to test our ability to bounce earlier than necessary!
Falls are one of the biggest causes of mortality and morbidity in those over 65. Over 40% of adults in that age bracket will experience a fall in their lifetime, increasing to a 50% risk after the age of 80.
If you have already fallen, the risk increases again to 60% that you will sustain another fall in your lifetime. With each fall or hospital admission, it may be harder to reach your previous quality of life and fitness than before.
This article discusses steps to take to reduce the risks of you falling in your home.
Your Home Environment
A home is full of hazards that can increase the risk of falling and the great news is that many of them can be easily remedied.
- Rugs - a big trip hazard
- Loose carpets, lino, doorway joists
- Lighting - ensuring lights can be easily switched on and off.
- Furniture Walking - treating your furniture as a walking aid introduces unpredictability and a big risk to balance.
Footwear and foot care have been identified by NICE guidelines as a major factor to reduce the risk of falls. Rubber-soled, well-fitting shoes are important to maintain balance and good contact with the floor. Worn out, loose-fitting, slip-on shoes can lead to slips and trips causing life-changing injuries. Foot care also contributes, the condition of your toes, joints, skin and nails can make you uncomfortable or lead to shoes fitting poorly.
As we get older we are more likely to be taking multiple medications long term for various conditions. Over time the way these medications act with each other on your system can increase the risk of falling. Some medications may have been prescribed a long time ago and if there are side effects, new medications may have been prescribed to address those. It's important to have your medications reviewed regularly, at least once a year. This can be done either with your GP, or if you have time and a good relationship with your local pharmacist then book some time to go through everything thoroughly and minimise that falls risk.
Exercise, Balance & Strength
It will be no surprise to anyone that staying physically fit and active into later years will reduce your risk of falling. "Use It or Lose It" is coined for the ageing human body and exercise gives us resistance and resilience against ageing effects, illnesses and frailty. The good news is you can start from where you are and see benefits at every level of fitness building.
These factors can all be dealt with straightforwardly; so you don't have to worry about falling in your own home.
- Pull up old rugs or ensure the edges are firmly stuck down with double-sided sticky tape or non-slip mats.
- Switch lights on at dusk or in dull light when you are moving about your house and especially on the stairs, even if you're movements are only brief or temporary.
- Ensure you have regular eye tests and your prescription is up to date.
- Avoid the habit of leaning on furniture that may move or topple over if you really needed it. Look at walking aids that will increase your independence.
- Have fairly solid slippers or indoor shoes for around the home. Backless slippers are a big hazard, especially on the stairs.
- If you are taking more than 4 daily medications, suffer dizziness or are unsure what any of your medications are for, contact your local pharmacist and book some time for a review and discussion of your tablets.
- Keep moving, walking outdoors and do things that feel hard and make you out of breath. Pushing your body gently towards its limit (out of breath) may feel difficult but will be valuable in maintaining your physical strength, fitness and endurance as you get older. Maintain the flexibility and confidence to get up and down the floor. Practice this in the safety of your own home a few times a week.
Get In Touch
If you've recently had a fall and want to prevent it happening again, sustained an injury or are concerned that your home could be putting you at risk, call us and speak to our team of Chartered Physiotherapists for expert advice. We offer telephone advice and face to face services including home hazard assessments to suit you.