Here’s some advice about how to prevent having a fall when you are older.
Any one of us could have a fall. However, older people are much more vulnerable and likely to fall if they have a long-term health condition.
Around one in three adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year.
About half of them will have more frequent falls. Most falls don’t result in serious injury. However, there’s always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones or minor injuries that if they are not treated could lead to other difficulties with their health. It can also cause the person to lose confidence. They may become withdrawn. And they may feel as if they’ve lost their independence.
What to do if you have a fall
If you have a fall, try to keep calm. If you’re not hurt and you feel strong enough to get up, don’t get up quickly. Roll onto your hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or a bed. Then hold on to the furniture with both hands to support yourself and, when you feel ready, slowly get up. Sit down and rest for a while before carrying on with your daily activities.
If you’re hurt or unable to get up, you should try to get someone’s attention by calling out for help, banging on the wall or floor, or use your aid call button (if you have one).
If you or a relative is frail, and has a condition where you may need emergency help, having an aid call button is a valuable lifeline and it is advisable to get one in place.
If you don’t have access to this emergency service, you or your relative or friend should get to a telephone and dial 999 to request an ambulance.
If you have had a fall try to reach something warm, such as a dressing gown or blanket, to put over you, particularly your legs and feet. Stay as comfortable as possible. Try to change your position at least once every half an hour or so.
What causes a fall?
Ageing is a natural process, but it does mean that if you are older you are at an increased risk of having a fall.
In the UK, falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75.
Older people are more likely to have a fall. This is because they may have:
- problems with their balance and muscle weakness
- poor vision
- a long-term health condition, such as heart disease, dementia, or low blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness and a brief loss of consciousness
A fall is more likely to happen when:
- the floor is wet or recently polished, such as in the bathroom
- the lighting in the room is dim
- rugs or carpets aren’t properly secured
- the person is reaching for storage areas, such as a cupboard, or is going down stairs
- the person is rushing to get to the toilet during the day or at night
In older people, falls can be particularly problematic because osteoporosis is a fairly common problem. This condition can develop in both men and women, particularly in people who smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, take steroid medication or have a family history of hip fractures. If you an older woman you are most at risk, because this condition is most often associated with the hormonal changes that happen during the menopause.
Ways you can help to prevent a fall
There are some simple measures around the home you or your friends and family and can take to help prevent a fall. These include:
- using non-slip mats in the bathroom
- mopping up spills to prevent wet, slippery floors
- getting help lifting or moving items that are heavy or difficult to lift
- Removing clutter and ensuring all areas of the home are well lit can also help to prevent falls.
Doctors take falls in older people seriously.
This is because when you are older, having a fall can have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing.
But there’s a great deal of help and support available for older people to help prevent and deal with falls. Talk to your GP about the various options and support available if you are concerned.
Your GP may carry out some simple tests to check your balance. They can also review any medicines you’re taking. This is to check any side effects that may increase your risk of having a fall.
Your doctor may also recommend:
- having sight test if you’re having problems with your vision, even if you already wear glasses
- requesting a home hazard assessment. This is where a healthcare professional visits your home to identify potential hazards and offer advice
- doing exercises to improve your strength
- having an electrocardiogram (ECG) and checking your blood pressure while lying and standing