Preventing falls at home

Falling over can be a serious thing. You might not only knock your confidence, but falls can result in serious injury too. There are a number of ways you can reduce your chances of having a fall, including making a few changes in your home and doing some simple exercises.

If you have fallen in the past, making changes to reduce your chances of having a fall can also help you overcome any fear of falling, help build your confidence and keep you independent.

Some people may be reluctant to seek help and advice about preventing falls from their GP and other support services because they believe that their concerns will not be taken seriously. However, falls, and the risk of falling, is taken seriously, not least because of the impact that they can have on a person’s health.

The first step is to discuss any falls you have had with your GP. Make sure you mention if it has had an impact on your health and wellbeing. Your GP can carry out simple balance tests to see if you are at increased risk of falling in the future and they can refer you to the local falls prevention team.

Avoiding falls at home

To help avoid falling, there are some simple tips that everyone should follow:
Mop up spillages straight away – it’s easy to slip over on a wet floor
De-clutter – move the obstacles to a safer place, move the trailing wires and sort out the frayed carpet or curled rug
Use non-slip mats and rugs – for example in the bath or shower, or a non-slip door mat by the back door
Make sure you can see – using high-wattage light bulbs in lamps and torches so that you can see obstacles and avoid them
Organise your home – try to reduce the climbing, streching and bending you have to do on a day to day basis
Get help – if you can’t do something safely, ask someone to help you
Wear slippers or shoes indoors – don’t walk on slippery floors in socks or tights
Wear the right clothes – avoid loose-fitting, trailing clothes that might trip you up, or tight fitting clothes that restrict your movement
Well fitting shoes are essential – they help support the ankle and foot, making walking about easier
Take care of your feet – trim those toenails regularly, use moisturiser and see a GP or chiropodist about any foot problems
Train – you can do simple strength and balance training to help stay upright and in control

Exercise

Doing regular exercises to improve your strength and balance can help reduce your risk of having a fall. This can range from simple activities like walking and dancing, to specialist training programmes.

Many community centres and local gyms offer specialist training programmes for older people. Exercise programmes that can be carried out at home are also available. You can get more information about local programmes from your GP.

It has been shown that taking part in regular sessions of tai chi can help reduce the risk of falls. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that places special emphasis on balance, co-ordination and movement. However, unlike other martial arts, tai chi does not involve physical contact or rapid physical movements, making ideal for everyone.

Medication

Medicines can affect you in sometimes unexpected ways. They can make you feel giddy, or affect your movement. Your GP will review your medicines every year to make sure they are still right for you, especially if you are taking four or more medicines a day.

Your GP may recommend alternative medications, or lower doses, to help manage side effects that might increase your chances of having a fall. In some cases, it may be possible for the medication to be stopped.

You should see your practice nurse or GP if you have not had your medicines reviewed for more than one year, or if you are concerned the medications you or a relative are taking may increase the risk of falling.

Sight tests

Poor vision is a major risk factor in falling. It’s easy to make an appointment to have a sight test with a local optician.

Of course, not all visual problems can be treated, but some can. For example, cataracts (cloudy patches in the lens of the eye) can be surgically removed.

Home hazard assessment

If you are concerned that you or a relative may be at risk of having a fall, or if you know someone who has recently had a fall, you can request a home hazard assessment.

The assessment will involve a healthcare professional with experience in fall prevention visiting your home, or your relative’s, to identify potential hazards and to give advice about how to deal with them.

For example, as the bathroom is a common place where falls occur, many older people can benefit from having bars fitted to the inside of their bath to make it easier for them to get in and out.

The healthcare professional who carries out the assessment may also recommend getting a personal alarm system so that you or your relative can signal for help in the event of a fall. An alternative would be to keep a mobile phone in close reach so that it is possible to phone for help after having a fall.

Contact your local authority or your GP to find out what help is available locally.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can lead to loss of co-ordination and it can exaggerate the effects of some medicines. This can significantly increase the risk of a fall, particularly in older people.

Avoiding alcohol or reducing the amount you drink can help to reduce your chances of having a fall. Avoiding alcohol can also reduce your risk of having a more serious fall, because excessive drinking can contribute to the development of osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones).

 

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