We all love to be independent as it means freedom of choice, being able to travel about whenever and wherever we want, choosing how we dress and eating whatever we like. However, we often take our independence for granted and it’s not until it’s taken away from us that we realise how critical it is. Nearly all of us wait for an accident to happen before we recognise that our loved ones are getting older and are more vunerable to injury.
This article looks at the causes of falls and how they can be prevented.
There are a number of causes of falls, some more obvious than others:
Age UK, who are holding National Falls Awareness Week, state that falls represent a serious problem for older people. They occur in around 30% of over 65s and 50% of those aged over 80 every year, often resulting in serious consequences, both physically and psychologically. In addition to bruising, fractures, and in some cases, death, a fall can destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence.
A sudden trip or fall can have long term effects and can also cause restriction to everyday activities such as doing the weekly shopping, taking a shower and going up stairs to bed.
By carrying out prevention activities for our loved ones, we can help to reduce falls by between 30-50%:
- exercise: regular exercise specifically designed for older people can help their balance and strength
medication review: it might be that your loved ones need a change in dosage or a new medication with fewer negative side effects
fall risk assessment: GPs can conduct a variety of balance, co-ordination and strength tests to assess vunerability of falling
home risk assessment: an occupational therapist or other qualified professional can visit a home to assess the current home safety for an older person such as observing how they use the stairs and making the bed. The risk assessment can actually highlight the modifications needed to reduce falls, prevent injuries and improve wellbeing
time management: people frequently fall when they are in a rush especially when going for appointments or needing the toilet. It's important that time is managed effectively to reduce rushing and avoid falling over.
Simple changes in the home can also help to prevent nasty falls:
ensure stairs and landing areas have rails and additional hand rails at the top of the bottom if necessary
put down non-slip bath mats
use night lights in the bedroom, hallway and bathroom
have your loved ones carry a mobile phone with them at all times
remove loose electrical cords from across the floor.
This article was written to support National Falls Awareness Week and to raise awareness of the issues of falls. If you would like more information on the campaign itself, go to: ageuk.org.uk.