Every year, literally thousands of adults fall and hurt themselves. In fact, falls are one of the main causes of injury and loss of independence in those that are 65 and older. There are various reasons that older people fall. It could simply be a case of losing their footing when stepping off a curb, it could be through poor eyesight or the effects of old age such as muscle weakness.
The good news is that there are things that you can do to reduce your chances of falling. It is also important to note that some older people may be reluctant to seek help and advice from their GP and other services about fall prevention as they have concerns that their apprehensions won’t be taken seriously. However, all healthcare professionals will treat fall prevention very seriously because of the impact that they can have on individuals.
There has been relatively unified evidence from specialists to suggest that falls can be prevented but this will differ from person to person as everyone’s risk are slightly different. After visiting your GP, they should be able to determine whether you’re at an increased risk of falling in the future by undertaken a few balance tests. But what are the best everyday things that you can do to reduce your chances of falling?
When analysing the causes of falls, it is important to consider the effects of alcohol. Even the slightest bit can leave you with less coordination. Not only this, but it can also increase the effects of some medication, leading to even more unbalance. This can significantly increase the risk of a fall, particularly in older people.
The best thing that you can do is to avoid alcohol or reduce the amount that you drink. Excessive drinking can significantly affect your balance but also contributes to a range of other serious conditions.
Through services provided by the NHS you can actually arrange a ‘Home Hazard Assessment’ if you are concerned that either you or a relative may be at risk of falling. The aim of this home visit is to identify any potential hazards whilst at the same time detecting how an individual’s actual use of their environment affects their risk of falling.
For some people, fitting a personal alarm system may be advised, in order for either you or a relative to signal for help in the event of a fall. A less extreme alternative would be to simply carry a mobile phone in close proximity so that you can call for help after experiencing a fall.
For others, it may be a case of fitting handles and rails around the house to make it easier in getting from room to room. Specifically, this might be useful in the Bathroom where slips are all too common. Many will actually have bars fitted within their bath to make rising easier.
If you’re taking long term medicine then your GP should review these annually to see if any variations or changes need to be made. This is particularly important if you are taking multiple medications per day. If these medicines are causing you unbalance and at risk of falling then your GP may well recommend alternative medication or to lower the dosage of your current medication.
In rarer cases, medication can stop completely and in turn cure the issue of loss of balance. If you are concerned that the medicines that you are taking are causing or likely to cause you to fall then you should visit your GP.
One sure fire way of eliminating the chance of falling is to improve your strength and balance but this can be done gradually and doesn’t need to be rigorous. This can involve activities such as walking or swimming. Specialist training programmes will also be useful to those that have already fell or are fearful of falling.
If you contact your local leisure centre, many will offer specific programmes for older people. The most important thing is that a programme or exercise is tailored to your needs and what you want to get out of it. Too little exercise will not be beneficial but too much can lead to over exertion of muscles which can leave you feeling even worse. It’s important to get the right mix.
Many people have a fear of falling as they can visible see the damages it can do to either friends or relatives that have experienced them. It is important to go and see your GP if you feel that you are at risk of a fall or have experienced a fall. However, by following the above tips, it can go some way in reducing your likelihood of falling again or at all.