Falls Prevention Awareness Week is a national health campaign to increase awareness around falls and injury prevention.
Why is fall prevention important?
Falling is one of the most frequent and serious injuries for those aged 65 and over, with 50% of people over 80 suffering a fall each year, and 33% of people over 65 experiencing a fall each year. Falls within the elderly population cost the health & social care economy around £4.4 billion annually and a large proportion of falls can be avoided.
Falls can result in injuries such as hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries. Falls, with or without injury, carry a heavy burden on quality of life. Following a fall, many adults develop a fear of falling again and tend to limit their activities and social engagements. This fear of falling can then lead to further physical decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
Caregiving can be challenging and caring for someone who has had a fall can take a toll on the carer too. If you can prevent a fall for the person you are caring for, you can save time, stress, and money.
How can falls be prevented?
Staying healthy as we get older improves our day to day life. Those who are less physically active are at higher risk of falling. Strength and balance exercises, properly managing medications, optimum hydration, regular vision checks, and making the living environment safer are some of the steps you and your loved one can take to prevent a fall.
Strength and Balance-
As we age, most of us lose some strength, coordination, flexibility, and balance- primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall. Notice if the person you are caring for is holding onto walls, furniture, or someone else when walking, or if there is difficulty arising from a chair. These are all signs that it might be time to see a physical therapist. A trained physical therapist can help improve balance, strength, and gait through exercise. They might also suggest a cane or walker, and provide guidance on how to use these aids. Make sure to follow their advice. Poorly fitted aids actually can increase the risk of falling.
Some prescription and over the counter medications can cause dizziness, sleepiness, dehydration, or interact with each other which can lead to a fall. The first thing to do is to determine if who you care for is experiencing any problems with managing their health. Has there been difficulty in remembering to take medications, or have there been side effects? Is it getting more difficult to do things that used to be easy? If so, it’s important that you discuss these concerns with a doctor and pharmacist. It may be best to have medications reviewed each time there is a new prescription.
Our kidneys don't always work as effectively with age, leading to a fluid imbalance in our bodies. We don’t feel thirst in the same way either and medication can affect the amount of fluids our body needs. To add to this, memory can be impaired in the elderly which is crucial if we are going to remember to drink. Offering different drinks throughout the day such as squash, juice, hot chocolates and interesting options can increase fluid consumed. Always having water available and keeping a log of how much elderly people drink is a great start to see if they are hitting the recommended daily amount.
In the ageing eye, less light reaches the retina, which makes it harder to see contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles. Get an eye check annually to make sure that any prescriptions are current and any glasses are as advised by an optician. Remember that using tint-changing lenses can be hazardous when going from bright sun into darkened buildings and homes. A simple strategy is to change glasses upon entry or stop until the lenses adjust. Bifocals can also be problematic on stairs, so it’s important to be cautious.
Most older adults have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that can keep it safer as they age. Do a walk- through safety assessment of the home. There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make a home safer. For professional assistance, consult an occupational therapist. Some simple examples include: increasing lighting throughout the house (especially at the top and bottom of stairs), making sure there are two secure rails on the stairs, installing a grab bar in the bath and near the toilet and keeping floors clutter free (remove those small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to keep them from slipping).
Tools to help!
Our personal area of expertise is focused on reducing falls with proper hydration. Dehydration is a huge factor leading to falls in the elderly. Ensuring good hydration not only prevents falls, it also improves the mood, stimulates the appetite and reduces restlessness and disrupted sleep patterns.
If your loved one is unable to reach, lift or hold drinks; Hydrate for Health have a range of different hydration products aimed at delivering independence and dignity for those who would otherwise struggle to stay hydrated. All of these products have a simple tube with a bite valve allowing the individual to drink unaided whenever they like.
If your loved one still drinks from their favourite mug but you’re not sure if they’re drinking enough, Hydracare is a digital fluid intake monitoring system where you simply swap the cup out to our smart cup and open the app to see real time consumption, spills and pours so you can see if they’ve drank their tea or poured it into the plant pot!