Falls are a major health issue in Australia, especially for older people. Statistics tell us that 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 fall every single year!* What’s worse, this number is set to rise as our population ages.
Falling over happens to us all at some point in our life. But as we age, falls become far more common… and far more dangerous. Not only are falls the leading cause of hospitalisation for people over 65 years of age, they are also responsible for 40% of deaths in this age group*.
Even if a fall doesn’t result in a broken hip, nasty cut, or serious brain injury, even small falls can still result in a loss of confidence that leads to reduced mobility, independence, and quality of life. Studies have found that after falling over, 48% of older people become so fearful of falling again that they curtail their regular activities*.
These statistics are certainly worrying. But the good news is that the majority of falls can be prevented. Understanding your risk factor and taking a few precautions can make a huge difference in keeping you safe from a fall.
Given most falls occur in and around the home, the team at Keystone have worked with Occupational Therapist Christian Kunc to put together this handy resource full of tips to help you reduce your fall risk, and that of your loved ones.
1. Monitor Your Gait and Balance
As we get older, we typically experience reduced co-ordination and flexibility as our bones and muscles get weaker. This affects our ability to balance as we move around.
Expert tip — Exercise! Keeping fit and active is the #1 way to reduce your fall risk. Walking is the easiest and most effective way to keep our bones and muscles strong, so try to schedule in time for a walk each day.
Make sure you choose non-slip shoes that fit well – tripping over on your walk is not part of the plan!
2. Be Aware Of Medication Effects
Medications are part of the parcel when it comes to ageing. Unfortunately, many medications can cause unwanted side effects that increase your fall risk.
Expert tip — Speak with your doctor about the possible side effects of your medications, especially if you get dizzy, drowsy or feel overly fatigued after taking them. Sometimes changing your dose, timing or even the medication itself can improve any side effects and reduce your fall risk.
Also, make sure that after sitting down for a while, you take 10 seconds to orient yourself when getting up. A sudden increase in blood flow can cause momentary disorientation that could cause you to topple over. A few moments to ‘find your legs’ makes all the difference.
3. Minimise Hazards Around Your Home
Few homes are designed with the needs of an elderly resident in mind. As we age, many elements in and around the home can become fall hazards.
Here are a few changes to consider:
- Steps and stairways – Install handrails for all uneven surfaces, and make sure they are securely fastened.
- Floors – A simple thing like an upturned rug corner can cause chaos for the unprepared. Remove rugs where you can, and where you can’t, use double-sided tape to secure them to the floor.
- Bathrooms – Install rails to assist with safe toilet and shower use. Also, make sure shower floors have non-skid pads laid – showers can get dangerously slippery for even the most able bodied person!
- Lighting – A simple night time toilet visit can turn deadly without proper lighting. Install night lights in all rooms and hallways, and place a lamp and telephone near the bed.
- Kitchen –It’s easy to lose balance when straining to grasp a jar on the top shelf, or worse – climbing a kitchen ladder! Organise the kitchen so that often-used items are within easy reach.
- All rooms – The less clutter in and around the home, the less likelihood of it tripping someone over. Remove obvious hazards wherever possible, and move items that must stay so that they’re not inhibiting walking within the home.
4. Use A Walking Aid
Having a bit of support at the right time can mean the difference between a bit of a wobble, and coming crashing down.
Mobility aids such as walking sticks and walkers are essential for people at high risk of a fall. There are a large variety of types and features available to suit the specific requirements of every person.
Expert tip — Choosing the right aid is important. Get help from a qualified health professional when selecting, fitting, and learning how to use a walking aid.
Where To Get More Information
The team at Keystone Health Supplies is dedicated to helping our clients reduce their risk of falling. If you’re concerned about your fall risk, or that of a loved one, get in touch with us on 1300 547 877.
*All statistics taken from the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society.