8 Fall Prevention Tips for Older People
A fall is an event that results in a person inadvertently coming to rest on the ground or floor or other lower level…no surprises there. The term ‘having a fall’ though, tends to be associated with falls suffered by older people as a direct result of changes to our bodies that occur as we age. Things like weakening muscles, stiffening joints, deteriorating vision and sensory and balance problems are all major contributors to falls in older people.1
Frequent falls can cause a loss of confidence and fear of falling, so older people become less active over time, which then further increases their risk of falling.2
Did you know that one in three people over the age of 65 in Australia has a fall each year? And that the most common injuries are fractures to the hip and thigh, followed by injuries to the head? In fact, falls cause more injury-related deaths3 in Australian than transport crash fatalities (13%) and remain one of the leading reasons for older people being admitted to hospital (38%).
Older people are almost 12 times more likely to have a fall than a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident.
However, there is plenty you can do to prevent falls from occurring at all. Here are 8 ways to prevent falls in older people:
1. Stay healthy and active
There is no doubt that taking care of your overall health will reduce your chances of having a fall:
- Talk to your doctor about your diet and managing prescription and non-prescription medication. If any make you sleepy or dizzy, make sure you tell your doctor.
- Stay on top of your Vitamin D and Iron levels.
- Have an annual eye and hearing test.
- Visit a podiatrist regularly.
- Drink plenty of fluid and get enough sleep.
- Be as active as you can – exercise prevents falls at any age as the more active you are the better your chances of keeping your muscles strong and joints flexible. Tai chi or walking groups are excellent choices. Also ask your local gym or council – some have programs specifically tailored for older people.
2. Improve safety inside
Our homes age too, through general ‘wear and tear’ or lack of maintenance, making them less safe. Often we don’t notice this because we have lived there for many years without any problems. And while many features of our homes would not have presented a problem in our younger days, things like dark halls and long curtains can now be very dangerous. It is important to check your surroundings and take steps to make them safer:
- Make sure lighting throughout the home is bright enough and in the right places such as stairways and narrow hallways. Movement-sensitive night-lights in bedrooms and bathrooms can also be beneficial.
- Remove all clutter from floors and walkways, such as stacks of newspapers, trailing electrical cords, ‘door sausages’ and pot plants.
- Repair or replace worn carpets and uneven lino or floorboards and check that mats and rugs are secure. Use non-slip mats in the bathroom, kitchen and anywhere that can become slippery when wet.
- Ensure bedspreads and curtains don’t trail along the ground.
- Chairs and beds should be sturdy and easy to get in and out of.
- Check for sharp corners on tables and benches.
- Wipe up spills immediately.
- Install grab bars and handrails where needed – stairs, hallways, next to the toilet and in the shower, for example.
- Avoid wearing clothing that is too long, like a dressing gown.
- Don’t walk around wearing only socks or loose slippers.
- Be aware of where your pets are before getting up out of your chair or bed.
3. Improve safety outside
- Roll up that hose!
- Install appropriate lighting along paths and at the front door – while you’re there, check the door mat for trip hazards.
- Clear away brooms and rakes.
- Don’t use a ladder- get help. Family and neighbours are only too happy to lend a hand.
- Remove slippery moss, funghi and leaves from paths.
- Mark the leading edge of outside steps with white paint so they are easy to see.
- Repair uneven paths.
- Wear a hat and sunglasses to reduce sun glare.
4. Use assistive devices if you need help feeling steady when you walk
Appropriate use of canes and walkers can prevent falls. If your doctor tells you to use a cane or walker, make sure it is the right size for you and that wheels roll smoothly. This is important when you’re walking in areas you don’t know well or where the walkways are uneven. A physical or occupational therapist can help you decide which devices might be helpful and teach you how to use them safely.
5. Wear the right shoes when out and about
They should be wide enough in the toe area, have low or no heels, and have slip-resistant soles.
6. If you do fall, always tell your doctor
Even if you aren’t hurt when you fall, always tell your doctor at your next check-up. A fall can alert your doctor to a new medical problem or problems with your medications or eyesight that can be corrected. Your doctor may suggest physical therapy, a walking aid, or other steps to help prevent future falls.
7. Get help at home
Knowing your limits and getting the right help at home can prevent falls in the first place and keep you at home for longer. Don’t push yourself to do things you know are dangerous because you fear that asking for help from friends and family is a sign of weakness. It’s not – getting old is a privilege we all hope to get to one day. There is also government assistance available if you need it.
8. Plan ahead when building or renovating
No matter what your age, if you’re building or renovating, take the opportunity to incorporate design features that will allow you to ‘age in place’ and stay in your home for as long as possible. It’s also much cheaper to include these features now, rather than making big changes later.
- Indoor and outdoor floor surfaces should be level and slip resistant.
- Design wide corridors, doorways, bathrooms and car parks.
- Hang the bathroom and toilet doors so that they open outwards (if you fall in front of the door, someone can reach you).
- Pay close attention to the bathroom – no steps to get in and out of the shower, hand-rails where appropriate, recessed soap holders (so you won’t hit them if you slip) and non-slip tiles.
- Good lighting throughout with two-way light switches in corridors, stairs, living areas and next to beds.
- Choose building materials that require minimal maintenance.
- Put a lot of thought into the layout – keep walking distances as short as possible, for example from the car to the front door, and the bedroom to the toilet, and avoid long corridors. In the kitchen, appliances installed at easy-to-reach height levels is also an important safety consideration.
For more information, the Australian Government has a fantastic, comprehensive guide for preventing and managing falls – Don’t fall for it.
To learn more about Home Care, start your search by finding out everything you need to know about getting help to stay in your home for longer. You can also give IRT’s friendly Customer Service team a call on 134 478 if you have any questions.