Falls are often seen as an inevitability of “getting old”. One in three adults aged over 65 have a fall each year – in fact it is the main cause of injury in our ageing population. Falls can simply mean a mere stumble, but in some cases they can have far more serious consequences. However, many falls can be prevented. Here are 3 key strategies to get you and your loves ones started.
Exercise programmes have been shown to not only reduce the risk of falls but also prevent injuries when we do take a tumble. Many exercises can be practised in the comfort of your own home. Here are three easy examples:
- Wall press-up: this one will help build strength in your arms and upper body. Stand at arm’s length from the wall. With your hands flat against the wall and a straight back, slowly lower yourself towards the wall, bending at the elbow, then back to standing upright. Repeat 8x – the time it takes to wait for the kettle to boil!
- Stand from sitting: this is as simple as it sounds and can be done whilst watching TV. Simply stand up from your chair. If needs be, use your arms to help you but as your strength increases try to power yourself up using just your legs. Repeat 10x then relax and enjoy the rest of your programme.
- Side steps: this one will improve your balance. Whilst holding onto something firm (like the back of a chair) simply step side-to-side for a few minutes at a time. As you grow in confidence try steadying yourself with just one hand.
You can find more exercises here. With all these exercises the key is doing them a little and often: having a go just once or twice a day will lead to significant improvements.
Before you start any exercise you should check with your doctor. They may be able to direct you to a local falls prevention programme with exercises tailored to your needs. When doing exercises for the first time it is a good idea to have an assistant on hand just in case.
And for the adventurous Orientalists amongst you, Tai Chi has been shown to reduce the risk of falling!
2) Remove trip hazards from your home
Make sure your home is a safe environment. First, check the floors are safe to walk on. This means watching out for uneven carpets and rugs, stray wires from lights and TVs, and pets (or grandchildren!) who might get under your feet.
High-risk areas are the kitchen and bathroom, which often have slippery floors. Think about fitting tactically-placed grab bars and non-slip surfaces for the bath or shower.
Stairs can be a challenge, so a sturdy railing to support you is crucial.
Finally, making sure rooms are well-lit with easily accessible light switches will ensure you can see any potential trip hazards.
A comprehensive checklist of assessing your own home for hazards can be found here.
3) Ask your doctor to check your medications
Some medications can increase your risk of falls, for example by making you lightheaded or dizzy. Make sure that your doctor reviews your medications regularly – your GP should do this once a year. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, make sure you tell your doctor next you see them. They may want to modify the medications you are taking to reduce this.