I’m worried about falling as I feel unstable on my feet, do you have any suggestions?
The main reason that people have an unexpected fall, in my experience, is that they were a little bit too caught up in their own thoughts. Preoccupied. Not paying enough attention to what they were doing.
So they have tripped up, sometimes over their own feet, and ended up in an undignified heap, cursing themselves for being so daft!
Its actually very easy to get carried away, thinking of all the things you should be doing and need to get done pronto. You can get distracted and not notice that the dog is now sitting behind you, waiting for a bit of a treat.
Round you turn, to put the milk back in the fridge and over you go as the little fella gets right under your feet.
There can’t be many people in the world who haven’t slid a few steps down the stairs, struggling to right themselves, when trying out those new Christmas slippers or even worse slipper socks! Especially common when rushing to answer the door.
If you are quick enough you can usually ‘right’ yourself and grab onto something solid before you hit the deck. If you don’t manage that then the bruises are not just to your ego – it can be very painful.
We always make sure that children are taught how to cross the road safely and it involves paying attention, calculating the risk properly and not rushing to the other side.
If you are not as fit as a fiddle then this advice needs to be heeded when going about our daily lives.
Many people fall in supermarkets, when distracted and not noticing a wet patch on the floor – the flower arrangements area is a common culprit. When you are taken completely by surprise its very hard to recover your balance and the fall can be heavy enough to break a bone even if you are young. When you are older and have weaker bones this is even more likely.
So the idea of ‘Falls Prevention’ is to put in one place all that handy common sense advice that we would happily give someone else but often disregard for ourselves.
I’ve grouped the advice into 5 main areas:
- Awareness: When you are having to do things quickly, keep an intentional awareness of your surroundings and your body, doing things intentionally faster but still safely is different to rushing. “More speed less haste” as my Granny used to say. It means being a bit more vigilant about what is going on around you and what you are asking yourself to do. If your sight is failing then make sure you have the correct prescription glasses – sometimes varifocal can make things worse when walking. If that doesn’t help then you have to rely more on hearing and feeling for obstacles. Always have a well-lit space to manoeuvre when possible.
- Speed: Sometimes its better to slow down to get there faster. If the terrain you are walking on is uneven, then take extra care to have deliberate, secure footsteps and good posture. Keep your head upright and use your peripheral vision if you can to gauge what is going on. This is better than stooping or leaning forward if you don’t have to. Your centre of gravity is located just below your belly button and an upright posture helps it to control your balance better. Sometimes turning your head and body too rapidly can be a cause of trips and falls. Turn with your feet not your head first. Slow and steady wins the race and its better to get there slower than not at all!
- Confidence: Keep your nerve. Having equipment which is designed to support you when you need it such as mobility aids, hand rails or grab rails is very important. If you go on as long as possible, having a wobble every now and then and relying on furniture to be in the right place when you need it, then you are just delaying the inevitable. Mobility aids give confidence and security, allowing better independence to enjoy life. They are easy to get used to if you have them early enough and keep them handy to keep you safe. They allow you to keep your head up a bit more and also act as a queue for people passing you on the street to give you a bit of lea-way. Having securely fitted sensible footwear is also to be embraced, although if you have always worn a heel then maybe you could consider a wedge design heel to be on the safe side. Wearing ice grips in the snow is a must. Feeling like you might fall is a sure way to increase the likelihood – so ensure that you feel confident and safe and count your wins whenever you can. Also keep moving and walking as far as you can, as much as you can – if you don’t use it you will lose it.
- Avoidance: Avoid having hazards about your home such as trailing wires, rugs, loose carpet, bath mats, too much clutter or unnecessary furniture. Even if you are sure that you are used to it being there and its not a problem – it may become one. For example if your vision starts to go or your balance or you get a bit of foot drop where your ankle muscles don’t bring your foot up in the same way anymore. Keep things up and out of the way so you can’t trip over what is not there. Get grab rails in place as soon as you feel you would benefit from one: near indoor or outdoor steps; in baths and showers; extra handrails on stairs, can help to keep you upright and feeling safe.
- Breathing: If you find you are having to concentrate on walking or climbing stairs or are feeling anxious when walking it is often at the expense of natural breathing! Don’t hold your breath when you are doing difficult tasks, as this will reduce the amount of oxygen available to your muscles, which will make you feel weaker and less confident. Its a common feature when a person is concentrating intensely on something – they can end up holding their breath, unconsciously, as if to channel the effort in to the task. It best to take a few naturally slow, deep, relaxed breaths if you find yourself doing this and then carry on when you feel ok again.
I hope that being aware of Falls Prevention strategies will keep you from having any painful slips and trips.
If you are having unexplained falls it is best to see a medical practitioner to be checked out physically.
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