Have you, or do you know someone who’s had a fall? Maybe slipped on a wet floor or tripped over a step?
Falls can happen to anyone, at any age, but statistics have shown that they are more common amongst older adults, aged 65 and over.
Did you know that....
Roughly one in three older Australians fall every year, 10% of whom experience multiple falls, and more than 30% of falls sustain injuries requiring medical care.
Falls can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life, and they can lead to other problems such as functional decline from the fear of falling, social withdrawal, anxiety and depression. As a result, it leads to further impaired mobility and decreased functional status.
What are some of the risk factors of falls?
There are many factors that can increase the risk of falling. Here are some common ones:
Cognitive and mental status
Uneven or cluttered floor surfaces
Hurried trips to the bathroom
Did you know that...
Falls are the leading cause of injury hospitalisations and fatalities in Australia.
Ways to Prevent Falls
1. Stay as physically active as possible
Research has shown that exercise is an effective way to prevent falls due to the following benefits:
Improve muscle strength
Improve balance and coordination
Maintain bone strength
Improve dynamic and functional stability
Improve response control
Maintain healthy and flexible joints, tendons and ligaments
Consider following an exercise program to incorporate into your routine! Feel free to refer to the following post "Stay on Your Feet: 10 Falls Prevention Exercises to Keep you Safe and Strong! for some ideas, or speak to a physiotherapist at the Good Country Physio for some exercise advice and recommendations for falls prevention.
For Adults aged 65 years and over, The Australian Guidelines for Physical Activity recommend:
30 minutes per day of moderate intensity physical activity- this can be walking, swimming, cycling (if you find 30 minutes too difficult right now, start with 10 minutes once or twice a week and try to build it up, or do 3x 10 minutes each day)
Strength exercises 2-3 times per week- try to incorporate some of the exercises listed above!
Flexibility Exercises- incorporate these into your 30 minutes per day. Try incorporating some of the gentle warm up exercises listed above!
2. Have regular check-ups with your doctor to ensure your medical conditions are well-managed.
Health conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, or issues related to your thyroid, nerves, feet, or blood vessels can affect your balance and result in a fall. Additionally, medical conditions that prompt hurried trips to the restroom, like incontinence, can also increase the risk of falling.
Make sure to also let them know if you have a fall. Our physiotherapists can assist you with addressing any risk factors and chronic health conditions. Ask your GP for a referral, or you can self refer.
3. Discuss with your doctor if you are concerned that your medication is affecting your walking.
Certain medications for anxiety, depression or difficulty sleeping can increase your risk of falls due to the possible side effects such as:
Your doctor can review your medications if changes are needed. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label and any other instructions given by your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that you are taking your medications properly.
4. Wear appropriate footwear
Our feet can change their shape and lose some feeling and flexibility as we age. This can change how we walk and can impact our balance. Furthermore, some shoes or slippers can make you more likely to slip, trip or stumble, increasing the risk of a fall.
If you notice any pain or problems with your feet or changes to your walking, visit your doctor, local podiatrist or a physiotherapist at Good Country Physio for some advice and recommendations on how you can walk safely.
5. Managing your worries about falling
Worrying about falls is common and this may be due to feelings of unsteadiness, or the fear of possible injuries from a fall. This can lead to other problems by restricting activities and reducing social interactions, which can increase the risk of falls over time.
Talking to a physiotherapist can help with your concerns about falling as they can provide advice and recommendations on ways you can improve your strength, balance and your confidence to start moving again! This could include joining a group exercise class to work on your goals. Physiotherapists can also prescribe walking aids, such as a stick or frame, to help you feel more strong and steady on your feet!
Visit the physiotherapists at Good Country Physio for more information today!
6. Fall-proof your environment
Did you know that 53% of falls amongst older Australians happen in and around the home?
You can help make sure you stay safe around your home with the following tips:
Remove any obstacles and keep your walkways clear
Ensure there is good lighting in each room
Use non-slip mats in wet areas like the shower and bathroom
Use hand-rails or seats in the shower or bath.
Remove mats and rugs, or ensure they are well secured to the floor to avoid tripping. Remove mats that curl or fold over easily
Dogs and cats like to be close. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings with your pet before you move
7. Eat a healthy balanced diet, incorporating a wide variety of foods, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid or limit alcohol intake.
If you have osteoporosis, your doctor may prescribe calcium and vitamin D intake, or changes to your diet and medications.
8. Stand up slowly after lying down or sitting
Quick postural changes can cause your blood pressure to drop, which can make you feel lightheaded and wobbly. Take extra caution when bending down and make sure you feel steady before walking.
9. Visit your local optometrist to have your eyesight and glasses checked every two years, and yearly by your doctor.
Your eyes are very important for you to identify any obstacles, judge steps and maintain your balance. As you age, your eyesight can gradually worsen and lead to an increased risk of falls. They may take longer to adjust to sudden changes in different lightings, become more sensitive to glare, and less able to perceive distance and depth, such as steps. Here are some suggestions on how maintaining good eyesight can help to prevent falls:
Make an appointment with you doctor or local optometrist if you notice any changes to your eyesight to ensure early detection of eye problems
Make sure to keep your glasses clean and always wear the correct glasses. Reading glasses are for reading and distance glasses are for walking around
Take extra caution when walking on steps if you wear bifocal or multifocal lenses as they can affect the way you see depth
*This content was produced by Emma Dredge and Anna Tan from the University of South Australia as part of a Health Promotion in Physiotherapy Course. Facilitated by Angela Willsmore, Director of Good Country Physiotherapy.