Falls can happen at any time and to anyone of us. Most of the time, our bodies have an amazing resilience that helps us bounce back after a fall. As we get older though, not only are we more likely to have a fall but the risk of injuring ourselves when we fall increases as well. Did you know that if an older person has a fall, there’s a 50 percent chance that their mobility will be seriously affected?
Fortunately, some falls can be prevented, so we shouldn’t think that falling is an inevitable part of getting older. To help our residents in our care homes, we recently created a campaign called ‘Get steady and stable with Eddie and Mabel’ to remind us that there are things that can be done to reduce the risk of falls. If you’re worried about an elderly friend or relative who lives at home, these tips can easily be adapted for home life. Just remember, it’s important to follow all of the tips rather than just one or two. That way, you maximise the benefits and really start to reduce the risk of falls happening.
Fitness, strength and balance
We all know that exercise is a key part of staying healthy, but as we get older, it becomes even more important to stay active. Exercise helps to maintain our muscle strength which in turn helps with our balance and makes it less likely that we’ll fall. Exercise also helps prevent bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. Having osteoporosis makes breaking a bone more likely if we fall. Your GP can talk you through the types of exercises that are suitable for older people. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym – walking, dancing and yoga are all great ways to get moving.
Have regular eye and hearing tests
Our balance and stability can be affected if we have any issues with our vision or hearing. So making sure your loved one is having regular check-ups is an essential part of helping them stay on their feet. A regular eye exam may detect any problems with their eyes before any symptoms start to show. A change in vision can affect the way they negotiate stairs and see obstacles. And a hearing test can identify if there are any problems with the inner ear, which contains the balance system. Any changes to our inner ear can affect our balance. The NHS provides free sight tests for over 60s and you can ask your GP for a hearing test.
Look after your feet
If we want to stay on our feet, it’s important to treat them well. This means treating any common foot problems, such as bunions and in-grown toenails. Practice good foot care by:
- keeping them clean and dry, especially between the toes
- checking for cuts, blisters and sores
- applying moisturiser if the skin is dry
- filing dry or hard skin using a file or pumice stone.
Just 10 minutes once a week is enough to keep your loved one’s feet in good shape.
As well as caring for their feet, a good shoe will support and protect their feet and help them when walking. Make sure the shoes are a good fit with ample cushioning and grip. It’s also a good idea to go for a pair with buckles or Velcro straps, as laces can become loose and cause trips.
Eat a balanced diet and drink enough fluid
Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of non-alcoholic drinks is not only important for our overall health, it can also help prevent some of the problems that can cause falls, for example:
Make sure your friend or relative is eating a balanced diet and having regular meals, as well as staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and not consuming too many alcoholic drinks.
Take the right medicines
Some medicines can cause drowsiness or dizziness, which will make a fall more likely. Make a list of the medicines your friend or relative is taking. Their GP will be able to check to see if the medicines have any side-effects or interactions that increase the risk of a fall.
Maintain a safe environment
Although the advice of Eddie here is aimed at people living in a care home, there’s still an important message here. Take a look around your loved one’s home and make sure it’s free of trip dangers, such as wires and cables or anything else they can catch their feet on. Remove loose rugs, boxes and coffee tables from walkways and make sure the lighting is good around the house, especially on stairs.
As you can see, there’s plenty we can do to help our loved ones. By just sharing these tips with your friends and relatives can help them keep on their feet and remain confident in their independence. Age UK also have some great information about fall prevention and your local GP practice can let you know about any services or exercise schemes being run in your local community.