7 May 2019
By Stephen Wiblin, Head of Clinical Strategy & Development
Becoming more susceptible to falls is one of the most serious problems associated with ageing.
About one third of people aged 65 years and over fall at least once a year, with up to one fifth of these people suffering multiple falls.
While several factors play a role in falls and related injuries, poor balance is usually the culprit for older adults.
So how can you reduce your chances of falling?
According to the experts, the worst thing you can do is stop moving. Immobility can result in a variety of physical complications and cause feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.
That’s why Allity strives to help residents find the balance between safety and mobility by creating mobility plans, developed in collaboration with the resident, the resident’s representative, and health professionals.
Each mobility plan includes tailored assessments for falls risk and regular reviews of the resident’s care needs to make sure appropriate measures are in place to reduce the risk of falling as a resident’s health changes over time.
We want our residents to be safe, but we also want them to be confident, socially-engaged, independent and happy.
According to Professor Stephen Lord, Senior Principal and Research Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), you can help reduce falls in five simple steps:
1. Exercise with a focus on balance training
Professor Lord said the first – and by far most important – step was to take part in regular exercise that included a significant balance training component.
“As we get older there’s a tendency to do less, to become more sedentary and to think that a little might be sufficient,” he said.
“Walking is not enough.”
NeuRA’s blog is a great resource for preventative exercises. The movements are focused on maintaining and developing balancing skills and overall agility such as the ability to quickly respond to an unexpected, uneven surface.
2. Regular eyesight checks and wearing the right glasses
By simply adopting a common-sense approach such as having cataracts removed, making sure your lens prescriptions are up-to-date and that you’re wearing the right glasses, you can significantly reduce the possibility of having a fall.
Another pitfall to avoid is making sure you don’t wear bifocal or multifocal lenses while you’re walking as these obstruct vision in the lower part of the eye, making it difficult to notice an uneven surface such as a crack or a raise in a footpath.
3. Managing painful feet and wearing safe shoes
Footwear should be chosen so that it is as safe as possible and minimises any pain in the foot that might result from inflammation or other disorders.
High heels should be avoided and flatter, supportive soles preferred.
At Allity homes, our mobility program teaches residents to ‘think on their feet’. And it all starts with wearing the right footwear!
4. Regular health checks including medication reviews
It is important to have regular health checks to ensure you’re not overdoing it with certain medications and/or to ensure the accurate diagnosis of any diseases, such as diabetes, that might affect your sensory abilities and therefore your ability to maintain balance.
Excessive use of certain medications or ‘medication creep’, such as taking too many sleeping tablets, increases the likelihood of having a fall and diabetes sufferers often lose feeling in their feet, making it difficult to gauge the integrity of a walking surface.
5. Taking care in hazardous environments
It is prudent to take reasonable care to ensure that the environment you live in is as safe as possible.
Allity conducts falls risks assessments for residents, but for people living at home, something as simple as an uneven floor rug with a raised edge can cause a serious fall.
Ladders are obviously particularly hazardous, with NeuRA in-house research finding that each year more than 4,000 ladder falls per year result in serious injuries.
There is a great deal that can be done to prevent falls among senior Australians. Doing so will ensure they are able to maintain their independence, mobility and overall quality of life.
NeuRA: Ageing well (video)
Got a question about medicine, care or technology or want to send some feedback? Ask an Allity Expert.