Falls continue to be the leading cause of accidental death in the home with the incidence of falling increasing as people get older. Many risk factors have been identified which can increase your risk of falling, however many of these risk factors can be addressed to reduce your risk of having a falls at home.
- Keep your stairs free of clutter – do not leave items lying on the stairs that could cause a trip or fall.
- Ensure your home is well lit (use high wattage low energy light bulbs or a day light bulb) and always put lights on at night especially when getting up during the night.
- Remove all loose / worn mats
- Avoid trailing leads/wires.
- If you use a non slip mat in the bath and shower ensure they are used appropriately removing them after use to air dry and clean the soap suds from them that can build up and cause a slip.
- Mop up any water spillages as soon as possible.
- Have broken or uneven pathways outdoors repaired.
Your home can be adapted with the help of aids in order to minimise your risk of falling. You can be referred to an Occupational Therapist who can have handrails fitted at front and back doors, an additional handrail fitted on the stairs and by the toilet.
Good vision has a major role in how you maintain your balance. Have your eyesight checked by an optometrist every year or sooner if you notice a change. Ensure you attend all appointments requested as having certain conditions may involve attending the optometrist and hospital appointments which are equally important.
Eye tests are FREE for everyone over the age of 60 years old.
Looking after feet
As you get older, the size and shape of your feet may change so always have your feet measured when buying new shoes.
When choosing footwear remember to choose styles that have a back strap, Velcro or preferably laces to secure them tightly. Avoid heels and slip ons.
Ensure to attend podiatrist appointments if you are a diabetic as it is particularly important that you look after your feet.
Osteoporosis is known as the silent illness and results in more fragile bones that will break more easily, often as a result of a fall. There are a number of risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing osteoporosis such as; family history smoking, drinking alcohol, long term immobility, early menopause, previous fractured bones and certain medical conditions. If you think you might be at risk of this condition you should contact your GP.
You can maintain healthy bones by:
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet including foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. For example, milk, cheese yoghurt, oily fish, fortified cereals and margarine.
- Partake in regular weight-bearing exercise.
- Stop smoking.
Physical Activity – activities that improve muscle strength in our arms, legs, back, shoulders and chest are particularly important as we get older. They can make it easier to get up out of a chair, and improve our posture, coordination and balance which reduces our risk of falling. (See strength and balance leaflet in links for helpful tips).
Using the stair frequently, rising to standing position from a chair, walking, gardening, Tai Chi and dancing are great examples. Exercise must be performed at least twice a week for effective falls prevention.