Falls in older people is a common problem that can have devastating consequences for individuals and their support networks. Physiotherapists play a crucial role in the prevention of falls in older people. There is high-level evidence that appropriately prescribed exercise interventions can prevent falls.
As we age, our bodies lose muscle and bone strength. These are two of the many reasons our balance begins to decrease with age.
If you’ve had a fall in the past six months, your chances of falling may be increased. There are many factors that can increase the risks of falling. These include:
- Poor footwear such as loose slippers or shoes that don’t fit properly
- Indoor hazards such as internal steps, rugs on the floor, slippery tiles in the bathroom, inadequate lighting between the bed and the bathroom/toilet at night
- Hazards in the garden and outside areas of the house such as outside steps which don’t have handrails or are slippery, and uneven footpaths
Sensory and balance problems
- Muscle weakness
- Low vision or blindness
- Poor balance
- Reduced sensation
- Parkinson’s disease
- Low vision or blindness
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
Best ways to prevent a fall
1. Understand your fall history
If you’ve experienced a fall in the past, then you’re at a higher risk of falling again. Knowing you’re at risk of falling helps you set strategies to help minimise the likeliness of falling in the future. Recognise risk situations and take necessary steps to avoid them.
2. Exercise on a regular basis
Balance and leg strength are very crucial to avoiding falls. Try exercises that will improve your balance and strengthen your bones. Weight-bearing exercises help improve coordination, cognition, posture, balance, joint flexibility and reaction time.
Weight-bearing exercises don’t mean lifting weights. They are any exercises that keep you standing, like walking. Go for walks in the evening to strengthen weak hips and legs.
3. Check your medications
Medications with various side effects, such as lightheadedness, dizziness, and confusion, can increase your fall risk. Talk with your doctor about your medications to know if they cause any of these side effects and take necessary steps to prevent falls after taking such medication.
4. Test your vision
When was your last eye exam? If you have any troubles with your eyesight, then have your eyes checked. People with blurry vision and weak eyesight are at higher risk of falling.
5. Reorganise your home environment
Reduce the clutter in your home or office to avoid stumbling. Add grab bars in areas where there are high risks of falling, like in the bathroom or stairways.
Understanding the fall risks helps you minimise the risks and helps to avoid falls.
Falls can be fatal and should not be taken lightly. If you do fall, make sure you visit a doctor or physiotherapist and be examined, even if there are no visible injuries. Death from falls is usually not caused by the fall, but the associated problem.
Physiotherapy helps you maintain your independence with the implementation of individual, class and home exercise programs for balance, strength and falls prevention. By undergoing a falls assessment, your physiotherapist can build an appropriate strength and balance programme to reduce your risk of falls.
Strength and balance retraining is the most long-term, effective fall prevention measure that has cardiovascular, metabolic, and self-confidence benefits in addition to greater stability. Research has shown that falls can be prevented by retraining your balance and improving your muscular strength, endurance and flexibility.
Gentle strengthening, mobility and balance exercises with our Physiotherapists at The Body Refinery, will help you maintain your independence and confidence.
It is never too late to work on your muscle strength and improve your balance. If you or a member of your family are concerned about falls and/or balance, we would love to assist you.
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