It’s well documented that as age increases, so does the risk of falling. But don’t be fooled: age isn’t the only issue. Falls prevention is multifactorial and complex, so to make things clear, we’ve outlined 5 simple, yet effective falls prevention strategies that can be easily integrated into your practice.
Statistics tell us a person who is aged 65 years-old has a 2 in 5 chance of having a fall within a 12-month period. As age increases, the chances of having a fall further increases in a pretty dramatic way.
The good news? Due to the multifactorial nature of falls it’s relatively simple to develop programs that educate people on the risks and give them the tools they need to prevent a fall.
OK, so let’s explore some of the common factors or risks that can be controlled.
Let’s start with footwear. Very often, fashion – rather than practicality – dictates our choice of footwear. There are so many different types of shoes on the market: sandals, thongs, slip-ons, heels, high and low. Many of these are a hazard in themselves, no matter the wearer’s age!
Then there’s fit, which can also vary. When it comes to preventing a fall, the best footwear isn’t always the most fashionable. Shoes that fit well, have solid sides, sturdy backs, and laces that can be adjusted when needed are much less likely to come loose or slip off, causing trouble. Sticking with shoes that tick these boxes is one of the best ways to prevent a fall.
Visual aids (glasses)
Forgetting (or neglecting) to wear spectacles is a major factor in many falls. Why? Well firstly, it decreases one’s ability to judge distances, and it can also lead to blurred vision and decreased acuity. For those who must wear glasses it’s essential that they are worn at all times, even in the middle of the night for quick trips to the bathroom (which is a classic accident waiting to happen). Doing so allows for better judgement of distance, which helps to identify any tripping hazards ahead of time.
Medications have different side effects on different people. Being aware of the side effects of prescribed medications is key in the prevention of falls. If a medication makes you slightly dizzy or light-headed, then it’s important to work out the best time of day to take it. Remember, if a medication does make you light-headed it’s not always best to take it before going to bed. What if you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom? Feeling light-headed after waking in the dark without your glasses is a fall disaster waiting to happen.
As people age, they often require a gait aid to move around safely. Whether it be a frame (2-wheel, 4-wheel), crutches, or a walking stick, these aids will have been recommended for good reason, so it’s important that the gait aid is at hand at all times – especially at night. People often leave their gait aid in the corner of their bedroom and walk to the bed, only to struggle to get to it in the middle of the night when nature calls (and when the gait aid is several steps away). For this reason, the gait aid should always be close by.
The surrounding environment can also play a major role in falls. First, there’s our external environment, which we often don’t have too much control over (i.e. the garden, our street, footpaths, public transport, ramps, escalators). Then there’s our indoor environment, which we can actually control to a certain degree.
Pets (in particular puppies) can be very energetic and run around and bounce off everything – including you! Loose mats or rugs on the floor are another classic trip hazard that can be easily controlled. Adequate lighting inside the home is also important, so that one can see what’s around (especially if vision is poor). Installing motion sensor lights in the bedroom and the corridors leading to bathrooms to light the way is another very simple way to prevent a fall in the middle of the night.
Falls can have pretty serious physical and emotional consequences, but reducing the risks isn’t rocket science. These are just a few very simple ways you can help high-risk falls patients avoid a nasty incident. If you know folks who are at risk of having a fall, why not have a quick chat to them about some of the points we’ve just covered. You may just help prevent a fall.