Falls are a serious problem in all age groups, but particularly for older adults. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 people over 65 will fall and that number increases with age. Falls increase your risk of injury and dying younger, and can make you feel isolated, anxious and depressed. In addition, older people who fall are more likely to move into aged care facilities. Therefore, it’s important you take fall prevention steps to reduce your risk. At Focal Allied Health we can assess you for risks of falling and provide you with a management plan to reduce those risks.
Risks of Falling
Thankfully it is possible to identify certain falls risks and do something about them. Falls risks are typically broken down into 3 categories:
- Environmental risks – things in your environment that increase your chances of falling;
- Behavioural risks – things you do that put you at risk, and;
- Intrinsic risks – your health factors that put you at risk.
By looking at these 3 areas you can often reduce your chances of falling.
Environmental falls risks can often be easily addressed. Things such as electrical cables on the floor, loose rugs, or low furniture such as your coffee table can be trip hazards that should be removed. Uneven surfaces in the home or garden, or steep steps also need to be improved. Other things such as handrails in the bathroom and beside paths can also help. If you have poor vision, having higher contrast flooring installed can also help you see any things that might trip you up.
Behavioural risks are things that you are doing (or not doing!) that increase your chances of a fall. They can include aspects such as:
- Not turning on lights when you get up at night;
- Rushing on getting out of a chair;
- Taking risks while walking or trying to do too many things at once;
- Fear of falling;
- Poor footwear, such as thongs or loose shoes;
- Wearing multifocal glasses when moving about;
- Pets getting under your feet, or tripping on their lead, and;
- Not getting adequate exercise.
Many of these things can be easily addressed with a fall prevention program and can make a big impact on your safety.
Intrinsic factors are things about you that increase your risk of falling. They include things such as:
- Muscle weakness and wasting;
- A history of previous falls;
- Balance problems, such as dizziness and vertigo;
- Loss of sensation, particularly in the feet;
- Poor eyesight, including things like cataracts;
- Certain medications – such as psychoactive, sedative, opioid, and blood pressure medications;
- Taking more than 5 medications;
- Orthostatic hypotension, which is low blood pressure on standing up, and;
- Slow reaction times.
Many of these can be addressed as part of a fall prevention program. For example medication and blood pressure issues should be discussed with your doctor. Eyesight problems should be discussed with your doctor or optometrist, and be sure to get an annual eyesight check-up.
At our practice, we have Falls Risk Evaluation appointments available. In these we assess you for falls risks, and can provide advice and treatment to reduce your risk of falls. For example, you may have loss of sensation in your feet. Doing mobilisation and exercises might help improve your body’s awareness of your feet and thereby reduce that aspect of risk.
Similarly, muscle weakness and wasting can affect your balance and cause falls. We can prescribe you specific exercises to improve your strength and make you more stable.
The main message here is that falls can be prevented. Please, don’t just sit back and wait for a fall to happen to you. Give us a call now on 03 9034 7735 and book a Falls Risk Evaluation. Or click here to book online.