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It’s not just the leaves in autumn that keep falling but the elderly and other suffering from certain diseases are prone too. It may be an indicator of deteriorating health. People who have fallen and broken a hip also have a good chance of falling again. Most elderly people fall in and around the home and also common in aged care homes. If you have a serious injury, it can lead to a change in where you live. It is the leading cause for admissions into hospital for people over 65 years (approx 70% are women). Older people are almost 12 times more likely to have a fall than a motor vehicle or pedestrian accident.
The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to help prevent falls and minimise your injuries if you do fall. Knowing your risk factors and taking a few precautions is a good start.
Ensuring that a person’s home is safe and unlikely to cause further falls can best prevent this. Issues to consider include:
- Making sure that lighting is not too dim or too direct, and that light switches are easily accessible
- The edges of carpets and rugs should be tacked down so there is no curly corners
- Bathrooms should have a chair for bathing or skid-resistant mats, grab bars placed where needed and the toilet seat needs to be positioned for easy transferring
- Kitchen items that are frequently used should be at waist level or on low shelves, a rubber mat should be placed in front of the sink
- Stairways need handrails and steps should not be slippery
- Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, with regular exercise to prevent your muscles weakening and joints stiffening such as tai chi
Other considerations include having regular eye-checkups and wearing comfortable, sensible flat shoes for improved mobility. Regular, comfortable exercise that includes strength training and cardio can also improve confidence and prevent falls.
There has been a lot of fall prevention research over the past 20 years, and there is now some evidence that fall injury-related hospitalisation (predominantly hip fracture) is finally decreasing. However, there are still large gaps in the literature particularly around targeting appropriate populations and interventions, and incorporating new technologies in fall prevention.
Sadly, some diseases will make you more prone than others to falling. They include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- low vision or blindness
- hypotension (low blood pressure)
If you are prone to falls, then you may also want to consider installing a personal or medical alarm. There are different types of devices you can choose from to raise the alarm should you fall. Your choice of device will depend on many things, such as who can come to help, the distance over which the device works, how easy it is for you to carry and use the device, and how much it costs.