Older people

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Falls prevention

Falls are a common and serious problem for older people. At least a third of people aged over 65 will fall each year nationally.

In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, which has a significantly higher number of older people than the UK average, this means up to 58,000 people are likely to have falls every year, with up to 2,900 requiring hospital treatment.

Reasons for having a fall

Understanding why we fall is key to prevention. The natural process of ageing can often place older people at an increasing risk of having a fall.

There are 3 health reasons for this which are outlined below.

  1. Chronic health conditions: heart disease, dementia, or low blood pressure (hypotension). Dizziness is a common symptom of low blood pressure.
  2. Impairments: poor vision, or muscle weakness.
  3. Disabilities that can affect their balance.

Reduce your risk of having a fall

There are several ways that you can reduce your risk of having a fall, including doing exercises to improve your strength and balance, and making simple changes to your home.

Doing regular strength exercises and balance exercises can reduce your risk of having a fall. This can take the form of simple activities such as walking and dancing.

What to do if you do fall

  • Call for help: Use your lifeline alarm if you have one, crawl to a telephone, or make a loud noise to attract attention.
  • Keep warm: Cover up with anything in reach, like a rug, blanket, or towel.
  • Keep moving: Move the parts of your body that don’t hurt, to relieve pressure. If you are on a hard floor, try to move to an area with carpet or a rug.
  • Try to get up: If you can, roll onto your hands and knees, crawl to a solid piece of furniture and use it to help you up.

Home hazard assessment

If you are concerned that you, or an older relative, may be at risk of having a fall, or have recently experienced a fall, you can request a home hazard assessment. The assessment will help you identify hazards and get advice on how to deal with them. Contact your local authority and/or GP to see what help is available in your area.

Multi-factorial falls interventions

Packages of care, such as exercise education and home modifications can also be beneficial. These interventions increase older people’s ability to continue to live safely and independently and can include the following:

  • vision assessment and correction of impaired vision
  • home hazard assessment and modification
  • patient and staff education
  • medication review
  • hip protectors
  • rehabilitation strategies

Simple falls early interventions

Simple early interventions can provide effective results. You might not notice your health changing as it can happen gradually, so having regular check-ups can help any issues to be picked up before they cause a fall.

It is important to:

  • stay active
  • eat well
  • keep hydrated
  • take care of your eyes
  • check for hearing problems
  • combined sight and hearing problems can make it difficult to maintain your balance
  • manage your medications
  • support your bone health
  • choose the right shoe

Many slips, trips and falls happen in and around the home. Keeping an eye out for potential hazards can make your home a safer place. Age UK can provide home adaptations to help with home tasks.

Falls service

Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust provide a falls service. The falls team provides older people who have fallen or who are at high risk of falling with a full assessment to help manage and reduce risk of falls.

Falls prevention exercises

Staying healthy

As we get older there are steps that we can all take to stay healthy, both mentally and physically.

Stay healthy at home

  • Take regular exercise, even a short walk or light gardening, to keep muscles strong and joints supple. If you haven’t done any exercise for a while, or you have an existing health condition, talk to your GP first.
  • Have an annual eye check and make sure your glasses are cleaned regularly. Eye tests are free for over 60s.
  • If you take 4 or more medications, ask your GP or pharmacist to review them and ask about possible side effects.
  • Eat more dairy produce, tinned boned fish, green leafy vegetables, pulses and nuts, and try to get a little sunshine (weather permitting!) to increase your daily intake of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Eat regular meals to keep up your strength and energy.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep warm in cold weather.

Above all, if you do have a fall, even if you don’t hurt yourself, tell your GP.

Safety at home

  • Make sure your shoes and slippers fit well, and your toenails are cut regularly.
  • Never leave things on the stairs and keep walkways free of clutter.
  • Make sure your home has good lighting, particularly on stairs and steps.
  • Remove trip hazards such as loose rugs, frayed carpets, trailing wires.
  • To avoid dizziness, get out of bed or up from a chair in slow stages and wait a moment before moving away.
  • Fit hand and grab rails where needed, for example stairs, steps or in the bathroom. Age UK or your local handy person scheme may be able to give practical help with this.
  • Keep items that you use frequently within easy reach to avoid bending and reaching.
  • Don’t rush! Take your time moving to answer the telephone or the door.
  • Turn on a light or a torch when getting out of bed at night.
  • Use a non-slip mat in the bath.

Medication reviews to stay healthy

If you are concerned that the side effects of medication that you are taking is putting you at increased risk of a fall, you can request a medication review with your GP. There may be alternative medications that you can use, the dose of your current medication could be lowered or, in some cases, stopped altogether.

Sight tests to stay healthy

If you are concerned that poor vision is increasing your risk of having a fall, you should make an appointment to have a sight test. Although not all causes of age-related visual impairment can be treated, some can. For example, surgery is an effective treatment for cataracts (a common age-related eye condition where cloudy patches develop over the lens of the eye).

Page last reviewed: 3 October 2022

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