Falls can cause serious physical injury, so every effort should be made to reduce the risk. Also, though most falls don’t cause serious injury, they can be distressing and knock the confidence of an older person. Older people can begin to avoid moving around and going out and about because they fear a fall.
For both these reasons, taking steps towards preventing falls can have a really positive impact on older people’s confidence and wellbeing.
Follow these tips to help ensure your loved one is confident, moving around at home and while out and about.
Tips and strategies for preventing falls
Some medications can make people feel drowsy or dizzy. If you are buying over the counter medicines for older people, always check that they do not cause drowsiness or dizziness. Your pharmacist will be able to help.
You can also check your loved one’s prescribed medication to see if any of them cause these side effects. If their medication is causing a problem, speak to their doctor to see if an alternative is available.
As we get older, our hearing, balance and vision can become less sharp. If you take care of an older person always ensure they are up to date with vision and hearing checks. Being able to see clearly will help reduce the risk of falls from tripping over hazards. If your loved one is experiencing problems with balance, they should see a doctor to rule out causes such as problems with the ears or other conditions that can cause balance problems.
If you feel your loved one is at risk from falling, you should speak to your doctor so that they can perform a falls risk assessment and help you draw up an action plan as well as referring you to additional services such as occupational health.
There are many things you can do in a person’s home to reduce the risk of falls. Proper lighting can help ensure older people do not trip over hazards. Conversely, an older person can be dazzled by very bright lights so blinds or curtains may be required to reduce the glare of bright sunlight.
Also, removing hazards such as rugs, trailing wires, and low tables can reduce the risk of accidents. Tucking in bedclothes, so they do not drape onto the floor is another excellent safety measure. An easily accessible bedside lamp will reduce the risk of falls at night.
Care should be taken when mopping floors to ensure that older people do not slip on wet surfaces. Any problems such as leaking roofs or pipes should be fixed promptly so they do not cause a slipping hazard.
Clothing can play a part in trips and falls. Ensure your loved ones have shoes and slippers that are comfortable, well-fitting with grippy soles. They should never walk around the home in bare feet, socks, or tights as these will not provide any grip. Older people should avoid long flowing skirts or dresses as these can also be a tripping hazard.
Staying as physically fit and active as possible is an excellent strategy for preventing falls. Exercise can improve balance and coordination as well as increasing muscle and bone strength, all of which can reduce the risk of falls. If you are concerned about what exercise is appropriate for your loved one, then speak to their doctor. They can refer you to an appropriate service who will help draw up and exercise plan.
Some charities run classes for older people, and these offer an excellent opportunity to stay active and to socialise.
Having a healthy diet can help an older person stay fit and well, thus reducing the risk of falls due to dizziness or fatigue. In addition, a healthy diet can help keep bones and muscles strong, which can help prevent a fall as well as making it less likely that a fall will cause serious injury.
Drinking plenty of fluids also help us keep our brains alert and reduces brain fog and fatigue that can lead to accidents.
Also, getting out in daylight can ensure older people get enough vitamin D from sunlight.
Many aids can be useful in preventing falls. These range from walking sticks, to grab rails to anti-slip bath mats. If you believe your loved one requires additional aids, then do speak to your doctor. They may be able to refer you for an assessment.
Some people will benefit from having a personal alarm so they can quickly call for help if required.
Fall prevention action plan
If your loved one has lost their confidence and developed a fear of falling then working on an action plan with them can keep them safe and make them feel more confident.
- Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your risk of falling.
- Book an eye test if you are due for one or if you have concerns about your vision.
- Book a hearing test if you’ve not had one recently.
- Check for, and fix, any trip hazards in and around your home.
- Buy appropriate shoes and slippers if required.
- Work on an appropriate exercise plan to develop balance, coordination and strength.
- Take steps to improve your diet if required.
- Source any items that will help with preventing falls such as anti-slip bath mats.
- Make a falls plan, so you know how you will get help if you do fall.