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How to prevent that first fall

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Use our 7 point plan to avoid a fall

Patricia is 86 and has lived a full and healthy life. She is married to Ted and has three children with families of their own. Her perfect day is one spent playing with her two grandchildren.

But three weeks ago Patricia had a fall on the stairs after a loose old slipper she was wearing caused her to lose her balance.

She spent a couple of days in hospital with a fracture and when she came home feeling weak she developed a chest infection.

Now Patricia suddenly feels old and vulnerable and has had to cancel a visit from the grandchildren.

Patricia’s story is sadly too familiar and is repeated the length and breadth of the country. There is probably a ‘Patricia’ down your street or maybe in your family.

The point here is that her tale of woe could have easily been avoided – if that old pair of slippers had been thrown away. And the fact is, most first falls can be avoided – as well as the myriad complications that falls can lead to in the elderly. 

It’s about much more than having good slippers of course. So if you have a neighbour or relative like Patricia, please take note of this article and pass on the advice. You may be able to prolong the quality of life for a loved one and avoid a lot of heartache.

slippers

We shouldn’t see falls as a normal part of ageing, or something that ‘just happens’ as you get older. There are lots of simple things you can do to help you stay steady on your feet.

7-POINT PLAN TO AVOID FIRST FALL

To avoid that first fall, Age UK recommends you follow its seven-point plan:

1. Exercise regularly

walking

If you exercise twice a week you can significantly help to reduce the chances of a fall. You will maintain muscle density and improve your balance. Some examples of good exercise for older people are Tai Chi, walking, gardening and yoga.

2. Check your eyes and hearing

Eyecare: Get your eyes checked and your glasses prescription reviewed as often as your optician advises, and at least every two years. This will help to identify any difficulties you may be having with your glasses prescription or other vision problems that may be affecting your balance and co-ordination.

Even if you think your sight is fine, a regular eye test is important as it can detect eye conditions at an early stage.

Hearing: Problems with your ears can severely affect your balance, so don’t delay in going to your GP. The problem may be as simple as a build-up of ear wax or an ear infection.

Or you might be referred for a hearing test and, if necessary, prescribed a free NHS digital hearing aid in one or both ears. Hearing aids are slimmer and lighter than ever.

3. Look after your feet

Problems with your feet can stop you getting out and about, affect your balance and increase the risk of falls. So it’s important to report any problems to your GP or practice nurse as soon as possible. It sounds simple, but wearing well-fitted shoes and slippers can help to reduce your risk of falls. 

4. Manage your medicines

Certain medicines can make you feel faint or dizzy and affect your balance. Let your GP know if you ever feel like this after taking medicine – they may need to check the dose or look at alternatives. If you take several medicines, your GP should review them regularly, in case you no longer need them or the dose needs to be changed. If you have any questions about your medicines, or have any difficulty taking them as described, speak to your pharmacist who can help you.

5. Keep your bones healthy

The strength of your bones makes a big difference to the effect of a fall.

As well as taking exercise, you can also help to keep your bones strong by eating a diet that is rich in calcium, making sure you get enough vitamin D.

If you find that minor bumps or falls are resulting in broken bones, you could have a condition called osteoporosis which causes bones to become fragile and break more easily. Make sure you talk to your GP if you think you could be at risk of osteoporosis, particularly if either of your parents ever broke their hip. 

6. Check for hazards

Keeping an eye out for things that could cause you to slip, trip or fall can make your home a safer place to live. Some of these points may seem obvious, but it’s so easy to overlook them.

Do you have good lighting, especially on the stairs?

Do you have a nightlight in the bedroom or a torch by the bed in case you need to get up in the night?

Are your floors clear of trailing flexes, wrinkled or fraying carpets or anything else that you might trip or slip on?

Does your pet wear a collar with a bell? It’s important to be aware of where they are when you’re moving about.

Are your stairs and steps clutter free?

Do you have handrails on both sides of your stairs?

Do you have a handrail in the bath and a non-slip bath mat?

Do you always use a stepladder to reach high places?

Do you keep your garden paths clear and free from moss?

7. Tackle the fear of falling

We all stumble or trip sometimes. But fear of falling can start to become a serious worry – and can be quite difficult to deal with, if not addressed quickly.

If you’ve had a fall or are worried about falling make sure you talk to your GP, even if you feel fine otherwise. There could be many reasons and, equally, many different ways to help you feel confident again.

Your GP can check your balance and walking to see if they can be improved and refer you for a falls risk assessment.

The assessment aims to work out what’s making you more likely to fall and draw up an action plan to reduce your risk of falling. It will be regularly reviewed so staff can see how you’re getting on.

Further information

There is lots of good advice (like the above) on the Age UK website – www.ageuk.org.uk

Locally, you can contact Age UK Tameside on 0161 308 5000 or go to www.ageuk.org.uk/tameside/

Age Concern Age Concern Glossop and District:

Bradbury Community House

Market Street GLOSSOP

SK13 8AR

NHS Choices has falls advice:

www.nhs.uk/conditions/Falls/Pages/Prevention.aspx

Do you have any good tips to prevent that first fall? If so, please email them to

news@reviewnewspspers.co.uk

Falls factfile

  • Falls and fractures in people aged 65 and over account for over four million hospital bed days each year in England alone.
  • The healthcare cost associated with fragility fractures is estimated at £2 billion a year.
  • Injurious falls, including 70,000 hip fractures annually, are the leading cause of accident-related mortality in older people.
  • After a fall, an older person has a 50 per cent probability of having their mobility seriously impaired and a 10 per cent probability of dying within a year.
  • Falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence, with around one in 10 older people who fall becoming afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.