Blog

15 Jan 23

Falls Prevention: 15 tips to help reduce the risk of falls

MePACS Team | Health & Wellbeing

Injury rates from falls in Australia have grown so significantly over the past 20 years that falls prevention has become a major public health priority. This AIHW report found that more than half of all hospitalised fall related injuries occurred in the home, and 15% of those injuries were caused by standard household objects and clutter.

Unfortunately, the rate of head injuries for older Australians caused by falls has also doubled over the last decade. The most common falls-related medical emergencies include head, hip and thigh injuries.

Falls have significant physical and emotional impacts on older people, so implementing falls prevention strategies can make a big difference.
Continue reading to discover 15 different ways to help prevent falls and injury.

 

01. Remove clutter in your home

Many falls are caused by regular household objects like rugs, beds, tables and chairs, as well as household clutter and unsecured electrical cords.

Sophie is an occupational therapist at Peninsula Health and helps seniors to identify interests and goals, manage daily routines at home and in the community, modify tasks to make them easier, and participate in safe activities. “A huge part of my role is environmental modification and equipment prescription, but also lots of education to clients particularly in preventing falls,” she says.

According to Sophie it’s very important to set up your home as safely as possible. This might mean having some rails installed in the shower, next to the toilet or at any steps in the home, since these are spaces where falls can frequently occur. “Having a close friend or family member check in with you every so often also helps – then you know you’ve got someone to rely on and trust if something doesn’t feel right,” says Sophie.

 

02. Balance and strength exercises

Regular exercise that focus on mobility, balance and strength can really help prevent falls, while also helping you to feel more energetic throughout the day. Always start small and build up your fitness level in a comfortable and safe environment. If you’re unsure where to start, a physiotherapist can help assess and prescribe appropriate exercise routine tailored to your body and abilities. Physical therapy is a service that can be covered by HCP or CHSP funding.

A recent website launched by a team of Australian physiotherapists, Safe Exercises at Home (www.saferexercisesathome.org), offers clinical and academic expertise in exercise and other forms of physical activity for older people and people with mobility limitations. You can find some simple exercises to help with falls prevention here: Home Exercises for Falls Prevention.

Associate Professor Michele Callisaya, a researcher and physiotherapist at Peninsula Health says that not all falls will cause an injury, but if they do, it can be quite detrimental. “Seniors are likely to fracture their hip, wrist or even get a black eye when they fall, which can result in a quite a long hospital stay for treatment and rehabilitation,” she says.

 

03. Better lighting

Improving lighting around the home can help prevent falls by increasing visibility, especially around potential hazards such as stairs, rugs and furniture.

Adequate lighting can enhance the contrast between objects and their surroundings, while appropriate window covering can help reduce glare or bright sunlight can cause temporary blindness.

You might want to consider installing motion-activated lights and night lights in high-traffic areas of your home, such as hallways or staircases, as well as in your garden. This will help ensure that you can navigate around objects safely.

 

04. Check your medications with a GP or Pharmacist

It’s quite common for older adults to take a whole host of medications, prescription and over-the-counter alike, on a day-to-day basis.

While modern medicine has been able to extend our lives and make them much more comfortable, they can include powerful chemicals that could impact your mobility and increase the risk of falls. It’s important to understand which medication you’re taking, at what dosage and are there known side effects.

Some medications impact your balance more so than others, including (but not limited to):

  • Anticholinergics
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihypertensives
  • Antipsychotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Mood Stabilisers
  • Non-Benzodiazepine Sedatives
  • Opioid Analgesics

It’s best to speak with your GP about the medications you may be taking, how they interact and whether they are contributing to feelings of dizziness, unsteadiness, or even degrading your fine motor skills. Your GP may also be able to help with other solutions that may reduce falls risks going forward.

 

05. Wear appropriate footwear

Wearing appropriate footwear is an effective way to prevent falls because it provides better support and stability to the feet and ankles, reducing the risk of tripping or losing balance. Shoes with non-slip soles, good arch support, and proper fit can also help improve balance and gait, and reduce foot pain and discomfort.

An assessment by a Podiatrist can look at issues relating to the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. They can analyse stride, gait, and the way the foot hits the ground with every footstep to determine whether the movement is efficient and stable.

A podiatrist can also recommend foot exercises to improve your balance, orthotics and footwear options to improve safety and stability.

 

06. Get your eyes tested

As we get older, our eyesight weakens, which can cause poor depth perception, shortsightedness and even “blind spots”.  It’s important to get your eyes checked annually by an optometrist so they can assess your vision, check for eye diseases like Glaucoma and provide a prescription for corrective eyeglasses if needed.

Reduced vision can greatly affect balance and contribute to the risk of falls so it’s important to address any vision issues with a medical professional.

 

07. Keep a healthy diet

A healthy diet plays an important part in fall prevention. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients can help you maintain your health and improve muscle strength.

If you’re trying to change your eating habits it’s a good idea to consult a professional dietitian or nutritionist who can help tailor a healthy diet that’s right for you. The dietitian will consider your medical history, day-to-day activities and personal goals, and create an effective meal plan that is suited to your body, lifestyle and budget.

 

08. Are you vitamin deficient?

A vitamin deficiency can increase the risk of falling as you get older, but supplementing daily vitamins into your diet can help to restore optimal levels.

Vitamin D and Calcium are particularly important for bone health and structure, and can prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Vitamin B12 can also support better balance and an improved gait.

On the other hand, seniors may want to be careful with Melatonin. Clinical studies have shown that melatonin supplements may impair balance for a considerable amount of time after they have been consumed, sometimes for as long as 48 hours after the initial dosage.

Speak to your GP first about a personalised approach to vitamins before starting any supplementation in your diet.

 

09. Mobility aids can help with balance

Mobility aids are like having a physical helping hand to support you as regain your strength and balance.

By providing a stable source of support, Mobility aids such as frames, crutches and canes can greatly help prevent falls and lower the risk of injury. They also help with increased independence and confidence, so you can enjoy spending time with your friends, family and community.

It’s important to make sure that you use the type of mobility aid that is appropriate to your functional impairments and medical condition, and that your mobility aids are well maintained and stable.

 

10. Place items in convenient locations

Placing items at convenient, easy-to-reach places reduces the need for bending or stretching to access what you need.

When items are placed in hard-to-reach or awkward positions, you may have to overextend yourself or use unstable objects (such as chairs or step stools) to reach them. This can greatly increase the risk of losing balance and falling.

Try keeping items in a tidy and easily accessible location to help maintain a clear pathway, reducing the likelihood of accidental falls.

 

11. Wear hip or limb protectors

While they won’t necessarily prevent your fall, wearing hip and limb protectors can help avoid further injury.

Made of high-density materials that are lightweight and compact, these protectors can be worn on your hips, knees and other limbs to help absorb blunt force trauma caused in a fall.

Modern solutions (from companies like Independence Australia, Impact Active, Hip Saver, etc.) are small and discrete enough that they fit underneath your clothes. They will soon feel like a “second skin”, all while providing you with the protection against serious injury that you need.

 

12. Raise concerns with family and friends

If you have concerns about falls and other medical issues, it’s vital to discuss it with people you trust, such as your family, friends or carers.

Together, you can take steps to identify and remove potential hazards at home, set goals for improving your health and create a falls plan.

Additionally, by sharing concerns with family or friends, you are more likely to receive the support and assistance you need to stay safe and continue to live an independent and active life.

 

13. Learn about falls prevention

Falls don’t have to be an acceptable side effect of aging and there are many strategies for reducing and preventing the occurrence of falls.  important to educate both seniors and their carers about falls prevention strategies and to acknowledging physical limitations paired with safety measures around the home can contribute to fall prevention.

Speak to a GP or physiotherapist, attend a health seminar, or even research reputable sites online (like Better Health and Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention Society). These are just some of the ways that you can learn about falls and strategies for prevention.

The knowledge and awareness will help to create a safer environment and a more positive mindset.

 

14. Get a monitored personal alarm with automatic Falls Detection

A monitored personal alarm, like the MePACS Solo watch, can automatically detect a fall and send a signal for help. This can be crucial in preventing further injury and reducing the time it takes for help to arrive because it means that help can be on the way even if the person is unable to call for assistance.

Monitored personal alarms that have built-in falls detection technology can detect a fall and immediately send an alert to the MePCAS 24/7 response centre. Our trained monitors quickly assess the situation and determine the best course of action – whether it’s calling an ambulance, or a family member to come help.

 

15. Medical follow-up after a fall

If you’ve already had a fall you must inform your GP and other medical professional involved with your care. Not only do they need to be aware so that they can treat you for any injuries, but they will also develop an appropriate recovery program for you.

A comprehensive recovery plan will help you regain your strength, mobility, balance and confidence, which will go a long way in preventing future falls from occurring.

 

Conclusion

While many of us may experience a fall at some point, having a good falls prevention strategy in place could help reduce injuries and hospitalisations, and in some cases save your life. If you, or your loved ones are at risk pf falling at home, talk to your GP, or other health professionals and get some advice on how to keep safe.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalised medical recommendations.


To find out how MePACS Personal Alarms can help with fall prevention and managing an active lifestyle contact us on 1800 685 329.