by Physiotherapist Michelle Huntley

When discussing past history with patients I often hear that they have suffered a fall for various reasons, but they brush it off and put it down to a ‘silly slip’ as if it were an inconvenience. But falling can have devastating consequences for older people. Over a third of people aged over 65 and half of people aged 80 and above fall at least once a year.

A fall is the largest precipitating factor of further falls. People can develop anxieties about their own abilities and become fearful of falling. Through this fear there follows a downward spiral leading to reduced activity, loss of independence and increased care needs.

Falls are generally not down to a single problem (e.g. uneven road surfaces) but are invariably multi factorial. 

Common contributory factors can largely be drawn into five areas:

  • Medical conditions (Parkinson’s or neurological conditions)
  • Prescribed medications (blood Pressure, anti-depressants, opiates)
  • Physiological changes (eyesight, reduced sensation, poor foot health, balance)
  • Environmental hazards (footwear, lighting, home hazards)
  • Lifestyle (alcohol and inactivity)

Furthermore, combinations of these factors increase the risk of falling.

What can be done

The good news is that falls are largely preventable and are not part of the normal ageing process. There are many things that we can do to minimise the chances of falling.

Join an exercise class

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend interventions such as muscle strengthening and balance training – getting involved in group classes which target the problem not only improve general fitness but also improve confidence and creates opportunities to improve independence, whilst having fun at the same time.

Check your glasses

Varifocals or bifocals may offer convenience, but our depth perception alters as we age and it may be increasingly difficult to adjust from reading to distance which affects balance. Get in touch with your opticians to discuss this.

Look after your feet

Foot care is essential to stay nimble on your toes! Supportive footwear and regular foot health checks especially for diabetics is key – podiatry clinics can assess your feet and make recommendations.

Make your home trip hazards free

Nobody likes to change his or her home comforts, especially as home is the place where we should feel safe. However, home is where falls happen most. Trip hazards such as rugs, poorly fitting carpets, dim lighting and cluttered areas can be easily resolved. If this is something that you feel you need help with, Health and Social Care Connect can assist with home hazard assessments and telecare or lifeline devices.

You may know someone that this information may help - get involved with your families and friends to show them the fall free way!

For more information on our balance and flexibility classes at The Horder Centre and our Tunbridge Wells, Seaford and Eastbourne locations, click below or call us on 01892 665577.

Page last reviewed on 26/03/2018

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