Falls are a common worry for older people. And with good reason: 50% of people aged over 80 will have a fall every year. And over 60% of those falls actually happen at home.
Falls are a serious cause of injury and, often more importantly, loss of confidence. Here, we have a look at some simple steps you can take to prevent falls at home.
Reasons for Falling
Of course, there is no single reason for a fall. It is usually due to a combination of factors. However, poor eyesight, loss of muscle (and mobility) and other serious health conditions can make older people more prone to fall.
Six out of every 10 falls happen at home, where we spend much of our time and tend to move around without thinking about our safety. Many falls could be prevented by making simple changes in your living areas, as well as personal and lifestyle changes.
We will look at each of these areas in turn:
Simple exercises to build strength, flexibility and balance can easily be done at home. The goals of such exercises should be to build
- Strength – to maintain muscle mass
- Balance – to maintain steadiness on the feet
- Flexibility – to maintain freedom of movement
Age UK have a helpful booklet which gives s simple routine using just a chair and an elastic exercise band (available from sports shops). It may be found on www.ageuk.org.uk under Documents – Strength and Balance Training. The NHS website also has a helpful section with an exercise plan — www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Exercises-for-older-people.aspx
- Older people should always check with their doctor before starting an exercise routine.
- Make sure that you have a sturdy chair or person nearby to hold on to if you feel unsteady.
We spend so much time at home that we can all too easily forget to consider safety at home. Many falls could be prevented by making simple changes to living areas.
Firstly, have a look round and identify whether there are any slip and trip hazards. Look for:
- Clutter which can be removed
- Rugs or carpets that are not secured to the floor
- Phone or trailing lamp cords
- Areas where wet floors could make become slippery
Ensure that furniture is arranged to allow free and safe passage around the home. Also consider whether grab-rails or handrails could be installed if necessary, particularly in entrances and bathrooms.
Have a look at the lighting – is it sufficient or could it be improved, especially on the stairs. Light switches at both top and bottom can help. Some older people who have poor eyesight find that putting white strips on each step makes them easier to see.
Ensure that there is a lamp within easy reach of the bed. Night lights, which are plugged in at floor-level and emit a gentle light can help to show the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It’s also a good idea to keep a torch by the bed in case of power cuts.
Finally, consider whether frequently used items are easily accessible. This particularly applies to the kitchen, where keeping things within easy reach may need a bit of adjustment and rearrangement.
If you are in doubt, it is always possible to ask an occupational therapist to visit your home and give advice.