Think about Sadie. She is a lovely 82-year-old woman who lives alone in her house in Caulfield. She is quite independent and enjoys walking around her home freely.
However, a few weeks ago, she had a fall which has slowed her down and made it more challenging to do many of the activities that she normally enjoys.
While she hopes to stay independent, she wants to make sure that this does not happen to her again.
If you or your loved one is in a similar situation, here is some advice about falls prevention and some recommended fall prevention equipment that can help.
For older people, falling can be a serious issue as it often leads to a domino effect of other health problems. It is also more common, as older people are 12 times more likely to fall than getting hurt in a car accident.
As you or your loved one’s age, bones become more brittle and there is a greater chance of fractures. This makes it even more important to protect against falls.
Risk factors of falling to watch out for might be weak muscles, trouble balancing, and blood pressure dropping. Knowing the warning signs for falls are important to help prevent them.
Falls can also be caused by wearing shoes that are inappropriate for walking, especially for people with limited balance. When people’s feet get sore, it can also cause them to lose balance and be more prone to falling.
Around the house, if there are surfaces that are uneven such as rugs or mats or poor lighting, this might also create an environment where falls are more likely.
While staying safe is important, staying healthy is equally important for falls prevention.
Many people like Sadie may become scared of taking part in daily activities such as walking, shopping, or social activities.
However, you should encourage your loved one to stay as active as possible.
Staying healthy is a simple way of falls prevention. This includes eating healthy food which helps to keep bones and muscles strong. Drinking water helps keep you or your loved one sharp and alert and prevents dizziness.
A supplement to consider taking is Vitamin D which can help strengthen you or your loved one’s body.
Similarly, doing regular exercise maintains balance, flexibility, and keeps you strong. There are many ways to do this including joining a walking group or participating in an online fitness class for seniors.
Wearing clothes and shoes that are comfortable and fit well can help with falls prevention. Shoes should not squish your toes, should be flat, and have soles that reduce the chance of slipping.
Try to avoid wearing socks around the house as these do not grip the floor. If you prefer lounging around the house without shoes, consider these special grip socks.
Clothes that are too baggy could also catch on door handles and cause someone to trip.
While it might seem obvious, avoiding high heels and wedges is also a good idea to stay safe.
Installing falls prevention equipment in your loved one’s home can also give them something stable to grip onto if they are feeling unstable.
For example, handrails in the bathroom or other places such as on the stairwell help with this.
Similarly, sensor lights are a great example of falls equipment. They make it easier to find your way to the bathroom at night.
Having a floor line bed that is closer to the floor also reduces the risk of falling. If you fall out of bed, or the height of the bed is safe for transferring then for there is less likelihood of getting hurt.
Or, with a regular bed, consider a crash mat on either side of the bed to prevent more serious falls.
Around the house, it is important to make sure there are no tripping hazards such as:
Having a conversation with your GP is always an important step to learn more about falls prevention for your specific circumstance. Specifically, they can review all of your medications and any other conditions you may have and make suggestions that work for you.
If you have medical conditions such as dizziness or incontinence, knowing how to manage them is also important for falls prevention.
One thing the doctor might suggest is getting your hearing and vision tested. New glasses or changes in your hearing might lead to a change in balance which can make you fall.
Or your loved one’s hearing or vision may not be as sharp as it once was, and you might not even realise that there has been a decline.
GPs can also refer you to other allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists to help.
Fresh air and sunshine are very important to staying mentally well, especially as the weather warms up. However, since the ground is more uneven and it can get dark, being aware of hazards is even more important for falls prevention
Make sure that any tools that were used for the garden are put away safely.
If you have steps to enter your house, you can paint a white stripe on the edge of each stair so that it is clear where the step ends.
Going out in the dark can pose extra risks of falling so make sure your path and driveway are well lit.
While walking, if you see uneven or cracked footpaths, you can report them to your local council so that you (or someone else) don’t fall on them.
Finally, during the day, wear sunnies and a hat so that you can see clearly and remove any glare.
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