Falls prevention is an important consideration for anyone who is supporting an older person. One in three people over 65 will have at least one fall every year, and the risk rises to one in two for people who are over 80.
As we age, falls become more dangerous. Older people may be less able to recover from the damage caused by falls, and the initial injury can be the start of a serious decline in health, both physical and mental.
However, falls aren’t inevitable. There are actions that we can take to reduce the risk.
Unfortunately, as we get older, we’re more at risk of slipping, tripping or falling.
Many health conditions can increase the risk of falls. For example, if your eyesight is poor, you may not be able to see trip hazards. If a medical condition or medication side effect causes dizziness or makes you feel faint, you may be more likely to fall. If you have mobility problems, just getting up from a chair may be difficult and cause you to fall.
In addition, people with underlying health conditions can be particularly badly injured by falls. If your loved one has osteoporosis, for example, they are more at risk of broken bones. If they are taking blood-thinning medication, falls may cause serious bleeding, leading to further complications.
Most falls, especially in people who are younger and in good health, don’t lead to serious injury. However, this isn’t always the case.
Falls can lead to physical injury, such as:
Some of these injuries may require hospitalisation or even surgery.
In addition, many people who have fallen once become afraid of falling again. This anxiety may lead them to become less active and avoid doing things that they enjoyed.
Falls prevention tips can be divided into a few main categories:
Perhaps the most important factor in falls prevention is making the environment safe. Everyone in the home is at risk of falling over trip hazards. You may need to make some simple changes to their home to make it safer for them.
These changes may include removing rugs, replacing threadbare carpet, rearranging furniture so that there aren’t any trailing wires, or improving storage solutions so that there is less clutter on the floor.
If there are any slip hazards, such as a spilt drink or a wet floor, clean and dry these immediately.
Does your loved one have to get up every time they need something? If possible, make sure that they have a table or area near their favourite chair or sofa where they can keep a drink, a book, a snack, the TV remote or other necessities.
If they regularly have to bend or climb to reach items in the kitchen or bathroom, you could work with them to rearrange where important things are kept. Consider what items they use every day, and make sure that they are easily reachable.
Some people may need to consider more extensive changes to the home. If your loved one’s mobility means that they are no longer safe on the stairs, would a stair lift be helpful? Or is it possible to move their bedroom and bathroom downstairs to avoid needing to use the stairs?
For people who are worried about falls in the bathroom or when climbing up the front step, grab rails may be a useful option.
Many falls are caused by people not being able to see properly. Even if their eyesight is good, in poor lighting everyone struggles. Make sure that rooms are well-lit, and that your loved one can easily get around.
If you worry about your loved one not being able to see at night, you could install nightlights or motion sensor lights.
Your loved one may also benefit from night care. A night care assistant could support your loved one if they need to move around during the night, ensuring that there is enough light for them to be safe.
If your loved one has health conditions that cause dizziness or make them feel faint, this can increase their risk of falls. This might include high or low blood pressure, vertigo or heart disease.
Managing a health condition may include using a stick or walking frame, taking medication or following a special diet. Encourage your loved one to talk to their GP, specialist or nurse to manage their conditions.
If your loved one struggles to remember to take medication, consider bringing in a home carer to support them with medication reminders or administration, if necessary.
Even if your loved one is following instructions to manage any health conditions, many medications can have unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately, some of the most common side effects include drowsiness, dizziness or nausea – and all of these can lead to an increased risk of falls.
If a certain medicine is making your loved one feel unwell, encourage them to raise this with their medical team, as there may be alternative options.
Make sure that your loved one is eating and drinking healthily.
Many people eat and drink less if they are finding it hard to manage around the home. Planning and preparing meals can take a lot of effort, especially for people who are struggling with depression, anxiety or forgetfulness. However, skipping meals and drinking less can lead to low blood sugar, and can also exacerbate low blood pressure problems.
You could prepare meals in advance for them, or make sure that healthy snacks are available.
In addition, people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are likely to feel unsteady on their feet. Encourage your loved one to avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
Continuing to stay active is vital for falls prevention. Gentle exercises can improve your loved one’s balance. This might include regularly walking, practising side-stepping, and simple balance exercises such as tai chi, yoga, or even just standing on one leg while safely holding onto a chair or table.
A home care worker can support your loved one with physical activity.
Your loved one’s GP may be able to give advice about exercises for falls prevention.
If your loved one has poor eyesight, make sure that they have the right glasses prescription for them. If they struggle to get out and about, many opticians have a home visit service.
Once your loved one has glasses that work for them, ensure that they are wearing them when necessary. If they are prone to losing them, encourage them to order several pairs at a time!
Undone laces, high heels, very long trousers or skirts, and ill-fitting shoes can all lead to falls. Encourage your loved one to choose safe clothing to avoid some easy risk factors.
If your loved one is alone for long periods of time, they may benefit from a pendant alarm or mobile phone with them at all times. This would help if they have a fall and need to call for help.
If your loved one needs more help than you can easily offer, consider whether they may benefit from home care or live-in care. A home carer will be able to support your loved one and ensure that they are not taking unnecessary risks that can lead to falls. They can also support with advice about falls management.
Falls can be a serious problem for people who are older or who have underlying health conditions. However, there are actions that we can take to reduce the risk.
If you or your loved one are concerned about falls, your GP may be able to offer a falls risk assessment or balance test.
At Tiggo Care we have experience in supporting people who are at risk of falls. Contact us to discuss how we can help.
The 4 P’s stand for: pain, position, placement and personal needs. These are the things that caregivers should consider for people to reduce their risk of falls – do they need help with any of these to avoid unnecessary movement or risk?
Some people fall because of hazards in their environment, such as clutter or other trip hazards. Others may have sight loss or health conditions that make them dizzy or have poor balance.
Elderly people can improve their balance with simple exercises, including walking, sidestepping and safely standing on one leg. They should also check in with their doctor to ensure that there are no underlying health conditions that may be causing balance problems.
If someone has a fall, try and remain calm. Assess whether they are injured or otherwise need help – if so, call 999. If they can get up on their own and there's no sign of injury, encourage them to rest before continuing with their day. If they're unable to get up unassisted you should call 999 to ensure a paramedic can check them for injury before assisting them up. Assisting someone to get up without a trained professional checking them first can further aggravate any injuries.
Get in touch with Tiggo Care today to see how we can help you or your loved one.