Falls Prevention Overview
As we age, there are changes in our physical abilities and health conditions that can make us susceptible to mishaps. An example would be the incidence of falls, which may be likely overlooked but comprise 42% of injury hospitalisations in Australia. In turn, half of the injury hospitalisations from falls result in a fracture. While anyone, regardless of age, can take a fall, it is more common among older people especially if they have long-term health conditions such as difficulties in seeing or hearing, lower bone density, and a decrease in muscle tone. This is especially an injury of concern for older adults aged 65 and above as they are 8 times more likely to be hospitalised due to falls compared to those aged 15-64.
Falls can lead to physical injuries such as bruises, sprains, fractures, dislocation, and head injuries. For people with osteoporosis , a fall can be especially detrimental as the decrease in bone density can lead to fractures. Falling can also have serious psychological impacts – primarily by instilling a fear of the event happening again. This in turn, may lead to a loss of confidence and independence, increased isolation and avoidance of social interactions, a decrease in physical activity, and a decline in overall well-being.
Prevent falls for the elderly
Falls can happen anywhere but are most likely to occur at home. Here are simple, practical tips to ensure your safety from falls right where you live.
- Ensure adequate lighting all around the house. Consider having switches installed on both sides of the stairs or hallway. Even better, use motion-activated lights that automatically turn on and off when you enter and exit a room. Place the light switch near your bedside to facilitate walking to and from the bathroom in the middle of the night. Keep a handy torch or flashlight at your bedside in case of a power outage.
- Clear your home of clutter. This includes books, clothes, shoes, and other stuff scattered on the floor; wayward electrical cords of appliances that can trip you; and even furniture that obstructs your walking space around the room.
- Avoid the many occasions for slipping. Clean up spills on the floor immediately. Don’t walk on newly washed, slippery floors. Ensure the carpet is secured firmly on the floor. Use non-skid mats and have grab bars installed in the bathroom. Have handrails fixed on both sides of the stairs. If you have pets, know where they are at all times, so you don’t end up tripping on them.
- Observe safety measures outdoors. Clear your yard of debris. Use non-slip material on the walkway as well as on the stairs leading up to your front door. Ensure adequate lighting at night, use motion-activated lighting, or install light-sensitive switches that turn on the outdoor lights automatically when darkness falls.
- Wear the appropriate kind of footwear. Well-fitting shoes that are sturdy and have non-slip soles are recommended to avoid slipping. Steer clear of loose-fitting footwear, slippers, and flip-flops.
- Take your time. Slow down instead of hurrying as you go from room to room or shift from sitting to standing position or vice versa. Be mindful of hazards such as uneven floors or obstructions.
- Have your vision and hearing checked regularly. Wear appropriate eyeglasses and hearing aids if necessary to avoid falls.
- Check your medications. Some medicines may cause side effects such as drowsiness that may put you at risk of slipping. Discuss the matter with your healthcare professional to know your options.
- Make use of assistive tools and devices. Use a cane, walker, or grab bars to aid you in standing up, walking, taking a bath, or using the toilet.
- Exercise and be physically active. Regular exercise is ideal for helping you reduce the risk of falling. How crucial is physical activity in falls prevention? Read on to know how important it is in helping you avoid slipping and falling as well as incurring injuries related to falls.
Exercises for the elderly to prevent falls
Engaging in regular exercise can play a vital role in reducing the incidence of falls by building strength, improving balance and coordination, enhancing mobility, and improving physical function.
The following are key things to consider when choosing a physical activity for falls prevention:
- Balance Training – helps improve postural stability by strengthening the muscles involved in maintaining balance and proprioception. Some examples include standing on one leg, heel-to-toe walking, yoga, and tai chi.
- Strength Training – building muscle strength and power to help improve stability. Good examples include squats, lunges, and leg presses.
- Flexibility – incorporating stretching to improve range of motion and flexibility is crucial to preventing falls. Aquatic exercises can help build strength while increasing range of motion.
- Functional training – exercises that resemble day-to-day activities such as climbing stairs and sit-to-stand movements can aid in improving functional capacity.
- Cardiovascular training – brisk walking, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, and other activities that challenge your stamina can help reduce fatigue, improve endurance, and may also help prevent falls. The experts recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
Falls Prevention Strategies
To prevent falls in the workplace, consider implementing the following strategies:
- Stay physically active
- Try balance and strength training exercises
- Fall-proof your home
- Have your eyes and hearing tested
- Find out about the side effects of any medicines you take
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid or limit alcohol
- Stand up slowly
You should consult your Allied Health professional first before embarking on an exercise routine. Your Exercise Physiologist will conduct an individualised assessment first to know your health condition before you are provided with a program that is specially customised to your needs. As your fitness improves, your Exercise Physiologist will recommend increasing your exercise intensity, duration, and difficulty.
Falls Prevention at our Clinic
Healthstin provides a variety of ways for anyone regardless of age or health conditions to embark on an exercise program to help prevent falls. Our Allied Health Clinic in Sans Souci, like in our other locations, is furnished with both Hydrotherapy pools and gym space. This provides you with the convenience of getting a more holistic approach to therapy without having to travel to two venues.
Our team of Allied Health experts is always on hand to guide and assist you in your customised exercise plan whether it be land-based or aquatics-based. Resistance training in the gym can help build overall body strength while exercise sessions in the pool can allow you to benefit from buoyancy in the water that reduces strains on your joints and pressure on your body while building strength and endurance. To know more or book an appointment, call 1300 090 931 today.
While falls appear to be common and prevalent, especially among older adults, it doesn’t have to be so. You can help prevent falls by observing safety measures at home and using exercise to reduce and mitigate the risks. Physical activity can go a long way in helping maintain or improve your health as well as your independence.