Working to prevent falls is important for everyone as the impact of a fall can be damaging to both you and the people you care for and about.
A fall can hurt you physically, breaking bones or causing bruising and pain. If you have experienced a fall, you may also feel upset and anxious. Many people lose confidence and worry that they may have another fall, have an injury, and lose their independence. The feelings of fear and anxiety can stop you doing the things you want and need to do, like using your shower and going out in the garden.
Trying to keep as fit and able as possible is a positive approach as if you are strong and have good balance you are less likely to fall when you are walking on uneven ground or catch your foot on an obstacle in your home.
There is a cause for every fall and sometimes it is due to a medical condition that limits your mobility or causes unsteadiness. There are also hazards in the home which if you can spot them early can be modified and managed. Home hazards could be poor lighting, loose carpets and rugs, electric cables, clutter on the floor and slippery floors.
Medication can also contribute to the risk of falling as it may have a side-effect of causing drowsiness, dizziness, or lower blood pressure. Being aware of the risks of your medication (even prescribed) and taking at the right time is important. Too many “pain killers” can cause drowsiness and therefore make you less aware of falls hazards.
A reminder to take your medication can be helpful if you are forgetful or a dispenser if you have lots of pills to take every day. Click here for a reminder clock.
Poor vision contributes to your risk of falling and it is important to have your eyes regularly tested and wear the correct spectacles. Good lighting is important to help you see if you have impairment to your sight. Common eye conditions that make it more difficult to see in your home are cataracts, age related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. After a stroke it is possible to have Hemianopia when you see only half of the image in each eye.
If you are experiencing trips and falls due to poor vision it helps to remove clutter, simplify the layout of your rooms, remove loose rugs and tidy cables. It is advisable to use modern high-wattage light bulbs rather than older style bulbs that take time to reach full brightness.
Wearing shoes that support your feet and help you to walk in a stable, secure way is good. Sometimes slip-on sandals and “mules” can cause a trip because your foot slips out sideways or you trip on the stairs. It may be helpful to consider a long-handled shoehorn to assist putting on shoes to avoid bending. The shoehorn also helps to keep the back of the shoe in good shape so that you don’t break it down by pushing your foot down and crushing it.
If you are finding it difficult to climb up steps, Support rails fitted to the wall can be helpful in some cases. Climbing up outside steps to reach your front door may be difficult without a rail or support. A solid banister rail on your staircase makes going up and down stairs safer and easier.
Many people worry about falling in the bathroom because of slippery, wet surfaces. If possible, in your home a walk-in shower is easier to manage than getting into and out of a bath. Support rails can be fitted to the wall of the shower cubicle or on the wall beside the bath to help with walking into the shower or to help you climb out of the bath.
Long-handled sponges can make it easier to reach your feet and wash them if standing in the shower. Long-handled sponges also help you reach and wash your back and feet if sitting on a shower stool. Click here for long-handled sponges.
If you are using a walking aid such as a walking stick or walking frame, ensure that it is the correct height for you and that the rubber ends are in good condition. If your mobility deteriorates or you are needing more support from your walking aid then it is good to seek the advice of a Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist who will provide advice.
If you are a carer for a person living with dementia they will be at risk of falls because of their medical condition. The person living with dementia may forget to use their walking aid and get up from their chair or bed without it and fall. A reminder “Don’t forget your stick” poster or verbal reminder can help. If the person living with dementia becomes upset and agitated they are not concentrating on walking in their environment and may trip or fall. They may have visual perceptual difficulties and see the world in a different way. An example could be a patterned carpet which appears to be in 3 dimensions and look like steps. The individual then lifts their feet to walk up steps on a flat surface. Good lighting is important for people with dementia as it enables them to see their world more clearly and helps to alleviate some of the disturbances of visual perception.