Falls are a major health concern for the elderly and the risk increases significantly once people pass 80 years old. Falls are one of the main factors for admission into aged care facilities, and in these uncertain times with a pandemic upon us, staying safe at home has become incredibly important.
While falls are common in the elderly population, it is not a normal part of ageing and it is preventable.
Here are some tips that can help you minimise the risk of falls:
1. Ensure your environment is safe and eliminate any risk of falls:
- Identify trip hazards such as clutter, rugs and uneven steps, and remove them as necessary.
- Ensure floor surfaces are not slippery and clean up spills as soon as possible.
- Ensure there is always adequate lighting. Use a night light if you need to get out of bed at night.
2 Ensure you have the appropriate equipment to help minimise the risk of falls:
- Appropriate walking aids can make a significant difference to your risk of falls. If unsure whether you need a walking aid, or whether your current walking aid is suitable, a physiotherapy assessment of your walking gait and balance can provide you with the necessary recommendations.
- If you use a walking aid, ensure it is regularly assessed and serviced. Lack of maintenance, malfunction, inappropriate fit or over-reliance on the device can turn an assistive device into a fall hazard. For example, cane tips can become worn, wheels on walkers and wheelchairs can become loose, or equipment can be too heavy or the wrong height. Lack of confidence when using walking aids has also been linked to falling.
3. Ensure your home is well fitted with suitable accessories, especially if you are having regular falls at home:
- A physiotherapist can provide advice and work with an occupational therapist (OT) to help assess your home and identify appropriate home modifications. Examples of such modifications may include installation of hand rails or ramps or a review of the bathroom and kitchen design.
4. Ensure you take regular exercise of suitable intensity
- Did you know that muscle weakness is the most important risk factor for falls and that it increases the risk of falls by five times? Consult your physio for suitable exercises to help maintain your strength, endurance, balance and – most importantly – your confidence.
- Engage in group exercise classes that focus on balance and fall prevention. They have been shown to have significant benefit to decreasing risks of falls by 30%. Tai chi is also a proven and popular form of exercise to help improve balance.
- The Physio Co has online exercise classes available so no matter the circumstances around us, you can stay active from the comfort of your home.
Falls are preventable and you don’t have to let it become a regular issue in your life. If you or members of your family have any questions about fall prevention, our friendly team of physiotherapists are here to help. If you’d prefer an alternative to an in-person consult, we also offer online consultations to keep you safe and mobile. Call us today on 1300 797 793!
Article written by Ching Cheung – physiotherapist, Melbourne East