Falls are the single biggest cause of visits to A&E departments for older people, according to Age UK. Falls can trigger serious complications – a lengthy hospital stay for a broken hip, or permanently reduced mobility that affects quality of life, for example.
It’s worth doing as much as possible to lessen the risks.
Some falls happen for reasons that may be avoidable: loose carpets or rugs that might be a trip hazard, or poor lighting on a staircase. However, many occur during ‘transfers’ (– a term that healthcare professionals use for moving a person from one position to another). For example, they can occur when a person is going from:
- sitting to standing, such as getting out of a chair or bed
- standing to sitting, such as lowering down into a chair
- sitting to another sitting position, such as moving from a wheelchair to the toilet, or vice
Bringing up the status of someone’s health in casual conversation might seem a tad impolite. However, it is important to ascertain if extra help is needed especially for those struggling alone and finding life less easy getting by independently. For instance, it is prudent to be aware of side effects linked with certain common medications, how they will effect balance and when to take them especially if there is more than one prescription involved.
Falling is a traumatic event for anyone but for those in later years the consequences can be profound both physically and mentally. Accidents tend to occur in a variety of ways and sometimes unexpectedly. If you’re concerned about a loved one who is at risk, it is helpful to discuss the implications with them. Older adults can approach their care provider who will provide information and advice about prevention.
When vision is impaired it is important to avoid hazards that could cause a sudden fall. Prescriptions glasses that are up to date are far less likely to cause problems with sight. Tinted glasses may be troublesome when travelling from areas of high light intensity into the dark so changing glasses may be a temporary option until adjustments can be made. When walking on stairs, check that bifocals are not preventing the wearer from seeing the way ahead clearly. Opticians are there to advise and will be very knowledgeable about your frames so should be consulted if in doubt.
During later years falls are more common at times when one is travelling from one place to another. Please be aware of problems developing particularly while getting up or walking short distances across the house. If you are concerned, seek the advice of a Physiotherapist or GP who might recommended some exercises you could do to build back strength and balance. Also consider using wheeled walkers and mobile scooters for extra support if the problem becomes much greater over time. However, any poorly fitted walking apparatus will increase the risk of falling so follow professional advice whenever possible.
Accidents are best avoided if the home is safe enough to accommodate someone who is liable to fall. Check that the environment is suitable especially lighting, stairs and the bathroom. Certain adaptions can be made to make life easier such as secure railings, grab bars and increased lighting in the darker areas around the house. Not all adaptions are complicated and might mean simply moving one or two things around. An occupational therapist can recommend strategies to find the best solution for you.
The experts say that one is less likely to fall by eating a well balanced and nutritious diet. For instance, missing out meals or eating meals that are not nutritious might cause light-headedness increasing the risk of slipping and falling. Other things to consider:
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat a good breakfast
- Consider labour saving ways to reduce time standing up while cooking etc.
- Monitor your alcohol consumption.
- Increase intake of Vitamin D and B12 along with iron supplements.