Avoiding falls

Whatever our age, keeping our body and mind as fit and healthy as we can is good for our balance, movement and for preventing injury. Bones tend to become thinner and weaker as we grow older. Developing conditions such as osteoporosis, cause the bones to break more easily so its important to avoid trips and falls that can result in a fracture, and to keep our body strong to try reduce the risk of falling.

Falling as we get older is quite common, and although most falls don’t cause serious injury they can leave us feeling quite distressed. Whether it’s slippery floors, rickety stairs, or electrical cords, some of the most common causes of falls are in the home where you might have a false sense of security. That’s why fall prevention starts with creating a safe living space. Making some simple changes to your home can make it more comfortable for you. It’s not always easy to know where to start – especially if you’ve lived in your house a long time.

Your home

  • Rooms and stairways are clutter-free and well-equipped with lighting, handrails, grab bars

Remove all clutter, such as stacks of old newspapers and magazines, trailing wires especially from hallways and staircases. Keep your access routes around the house clear makes good sense.

Check every room and hallway, looking for items such as loose or frayed carpet, slippery throw rugs, or wood floorboards that stick up. Repair, remove, or replace.

Grab bars and handrails are brilliant safety devices, for going up and down stairs, getting on and off the toilet, and stepping in and out of the bath without injuring yourself.

  • Light it right

    Inadequate lighting can be another major hazard.

    Fitting brighter light bulbs where needed, particularly in stairways and narrow hallways.

    Night-lights in bedrooms, stairs and bathrooms will give better guidance at night. You might like a small stick on motion sensor (PIR) version, stuck to bedside cabinet or on the landing.

  • Make it nonslip

    Baths and showers, as well as floors in kitchens, bathrooms, and porches, can become extremely dangerous when wet.

    Add carpet grip underneath, remove loose rugs and replace with non-slip mats.

  • Keep safe

    Mop up spillages straight away so there is no risk of slipping.

    Keep climbing, stretching and bending to a minimum.

    Avoid balancing on steps to reach.

    Move what you use regularly to a waist height shelf.

    Get help with tasks you can’t do safely on your own.

You

Some health conditions, medications and footwear can affect your ability to stay steady on your feet. You might not notice your health changing as it can happen gradually, it’s important to have regular check ups so any issues can be picked up before they cause a fall. Here are a few tips to help you prevent a fall:

  • Keep active

    Regular exercise can reduce your risk of falling. Simple stretches to loosen up in the morning before you start your day. It might be walking or going dancing with friends to keep fit. Joining a group is also a great way to socialise and meet new people.

    Weight-bearing exercise – where you support your own body weight through your feet and legs or arms and hands – are good for helping to maintain bone strength. Exercises to improve and maintain sensation in your feet, to keep the muscles and joints in your feet and ankles flexible are also useful.

    Everyday health should be enjoyable – walk, bike, swim, jog, take the stairs – add years to your life and life to your years.

  • Health & wellness at home

    Like our health, hearing loss is gradual and will affect over 40% of people over 50. As well as being frustrating, it can be dangerous if you are unable to hear warnings. Talk to your doctor and explain how this is affecting your day to day living is a good starting point.

    Have your eyesight & glasses checked regularly, at least every 2 years. Our eyesight changes as we age and can lead to a trip or loss of balance.

    Look after your feet by trimming toenails, using a moisturiser, wearing well-fitting shoes and seeing a GP or chiropodist about any problems.

    Some medicines may make you more susceptible to falls and some react if taken together. Ensure your GP is aware of all medication you are taking.

  • Give yourself time

    Move more carefully and give yourself time. Moving too quickly from sitting to standing can make you feel light headed or dizzy.

    Taking a pause before moving once standing up or going to climb the stairs will help.

    Don’t use a walking aid to get in or out of your chair. Push up on the arms of the chair and then take hold of the walking aid.

  • Plan ahead

    Have a falls plan including who to call and how to get help if you do fall.

    Flagging a contact on your mobile phone with the title ‘ICE*’ can help emergency services if you live alone (*in case of emergency).

    Wearable personal alarms allow you to call if you feel unwell, fall or cannot reach a telephone.

If you’ve had a fall or you feel your balance isn’t as good as it was, it’s natural to feel worried about falling – the good news is there are lots of things you can do to stay steady on your feet, feel more confident and in control.