Guides to care

Preventing Falls in Old Age

Falls can happen at any age but when they happen in elderly people, they can have serious consequences. According to the NHS, around 1 in 3 adults over 65 and 50% of those over 80 years old will have at least one fall a year.

Preventing Falls in Old Age The Mayfield Care Home

Many falls will cause only minor injuries such as bruises and lacerations, but some can result in broken bones or even head injuries. The more serious injuries are likely to be sustained during the winter months when the weather is bad and conditions are slippery underfoot. Unsafe conditions inside the home such as a wet floor or loose carpets are also the cause of falls, as are worn slippers.

Common Causes of Falls

Older people can suffer from a variety of health conditions which make it more likely that they will have a fall at some point. Eyesight, hearing, and reflexes decline in old age and muscle weakness can be a factor in falling. Some medications can cause dizziness or drowsiness and certain health conditions such as heart disease, thyroid problems, low blood pressure and nerve conditions can make you lose your balance and fall.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to reduce the chances of falling and sustaining a serious injury warranting a hospital visit. These are a combination of personal precautions and home- proofing.

Try to Stay Active

Regular exercise improves muscle tone and helps bone density thereby reducing the chances of falling by improving balance and posture. A daily exercise program of walking and gentle exercises that can be completed at home can boost fitness. Swimming is a great exercise for older people who may have mobility issues as it is non-weight bearing but will still provide a good cardiovascular workout. Tai Chi, Yoga or chair exercises are more gentle forms of exercise whilst golf, bowls, dancing, or tennis are pursuits suitable for fitter adults.

Just 30 minutes a day is enough to help keep up strength and fitness as well as helping manage illness better and achieve better sleep.

Eat Well and Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is a common cause of falls in elderly people as it can lead to a person becoming confused and light- headed. You should aim to drink 6-8 glasses of fluid every day. This can include water, fruit juice or tea. It’s wise to restrict tea or coffee to a couple of cups a day to avoid the effects of caffeine overload.

Ideally, meals should be 3 times a day. If 3 big meals are overwhelming, it may be worth considering several smaller snacks spaced out regularly. This will help to keep energy levels up and avoid dizziness.

Get Regular Eyesight and Hearing Checks

Eyesight and hearing deteriorate in most people as they age and this can contribute to a loss of balance, leading to a fall or trip. Ear infections especially can affect balance quite badly so regular checks with a GP will spot signs of impending problems which can be easily treated. If a hearing aid is needed, this can improve balance. Eyes should be checked at least once a year or more frequently if certain conditions such as glaucoma or diabetes are present. Remember that eyesight and hearing work together to prevent a fall.

Keep an Eye on Medications

Certain medications such as blood pressure tablets, antidepressants or antihistamines can cause dizziness as a side effect. If there is any concern about a medication having this effect, it’s important to speak to a GP who will be able to adjust or change the medication.

Shoes and Slippers

Badly fitting or worn footwear can be a major factor in trips and falls, so throw them away.

Finally, check the home for loose or worn rugs or carpets and trailing wires, and ensure the lighting is adequately bright.

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