Falls are the biggest cause of hospitalisation among older people. In fact, 30% of over-65s and a staggering 50% of those over 80 will experience a fall in the next 12 months.

Falls aren’t usually life threatening. More often than not, those who suffer a fall are able to brush themselves off and get back on their feet. Not everyone is so lucky though, and sometimes a fall can lead to broken bones, long stays in hospital and a loss in confidence.

It’s not unusual for relatives to worry about their elderly loved ones suffering a fall. It’s distressing to think about a family member calling for help and not being there to support them. Fortunately, there are steps that caregivers can take to keep their loved ones safe and reduce their risk of falling.

When to talk about fall prevention

It’s difficult knowing when to talk about fall prevention. Talking about it too soon can discourage older relatives from revisiting the subject later on (maybe when it’s really needed), and waiting too long can leave them vulnerable to falls. The best way forward is to start a conversation about their health and ask them how they feel. You and your elderly relative can then discuss any issues and see if falling is a possible concern.

Falls are usually caused by a mixture of age-related problems. Knowing what to look out for can give you a good indication of your loved one’s risk and help you bring up the subject at the right time. Here are some common signs that a family member is at risk:

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Muscle weakness, balance or gait problems – As we get older, it’s not uncommon for us to lose strength and flexibility in our legs. This can affect our coordination and make it easier for us to fall over.

Poor eyesight – As we age, less light penetrates the eye, making it harder for older people to spot obstacles and trip hazards.

Medication – Some medications can make the user feel sleepy or dizzy.

Chronic conditions90% of older adults have chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease or arthritis. These can reduce their activity and make them more susceptible to falls.

How to talk about fall prevention

It’s not uncommon for caregivers and younger family members to feel uncomfortable talking about fall prevention. Many worry that broaching the subject will upset their elderly loved one and cause offence. The truth is, talking openly and frankly about fall prevention is often the best approach and can help you avoid “elderspeak”, engage an elderly relative in the discussion and make it easier for both of you to express your concerns.

The conversation might be difficult – sometimes it means confronting fears that your parent or elderly relative is getting older. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from the subject. Talking about fall prevention sooner rather than later can make all the difference to your loved one’s future health.

Here are some conversation starters to help you break the ice:

“This isn’t easy, but I’m concerned about your safety.”

“I want you to live at home for as long as possible. How can I help you do that?”

“You don’t seem to be going out as often. Is there something worrying you?”

What can you do to help elderly loved ones avoid falls?

There are lots of things that families and caregivers can do to help their elderly relatives stay healthy and live safely. Below are some of the simplest steps that you can take.

young woman chopping vegetables and an old man drinking tea

Support their physical and mental health

Talk to your loved one about their health and consider speaking to their doctor. This will help you identify what sort of physical activities they should be doing to stay strong and if they should be using a mobility aid to get about.

Ask your GP if your parent takes any drugs that increase their risk of falling over. You should also encourage your loved one to participate in their healthcare. This will help them stay independent and understand the limitations of their own body.

Care Hub pendant alarm and in-home alert system

Make use of technology

Encourage older family members to keep their mobile phones nearby. This will stop them from rushing around the house when you call. If your elderly relative is comfortable using a smartphone, show them how to use apps like WhatsApp and Deliveroo. These are great for helping older people stay in touch with friends and family, keep their cupboards stocked and feel independent.

If you’re elderly loved one isn’t tech-savvy, then a personal alarm service like ours can help them in the event of an emergency. The Pearl Advanced, a pendant alarm from our Care Hub Plus package, comes with fall-detection technology and can raise an alarm even if the wearer falls unconscious.

the words my plan written in a notebook

Make a post-fall care plan

When elderly people fall over, it’s not unusual for them to go into shock. You can help them prepare for accidents and stay calm by putting a plan in place. Important points to cover include cautioning against getting up straight away, keeping warm in the event of a serious fall and calling for help.

How to prevent falls at home

A lot of falls happen indoors, so fall-proofing your loved one’s home is key to reducing their chances of experiencing a fall. Taking a look around their home, or walking around with them, can help you spot any potential hazards and come up with a plan.

Here are three quick and easy ways to fall-proof an elderly relative’s  home:

  1. Foot mats are useful for drying your feet at the door and making sure you don’t walk any mud or dirt into the house. However, some rugs, particularly those at the top of the stairs, can pose a serious trip hazard. Think about how useful a mat or rug is when touring your loved one’s home. If there’s no reason to keep it there, remove it right away.
  2. A trip to the bathroom is one of the leading causes of a fall at night. Installing a night light in the bedroom, as well as on the landing, can make it a lot safer for your mum and dad to use the restroom.
  3. Tidying away clutter is critical to making your loved one’s home fall-proof. Use cable ties to keep wires out of the way, and avoid any rubbish from building up. Removing glassware or glass furniture is also a good idea as it can be harder for older people to see.

What to do if you’re worried about a loved one falling

If you’re anxious about a family member falling over, or the possibility of a fall is affecting their confidence, then talk to someone as soon as you can. There are a number of preventative measures that you can take to protect them from falling, and a wide range of services that you can use to make sure they’re safe in the event of a fall.

Talk to your doctor

If you’re worried, talk to your doctor. They can perform a risk assessment and determine your elderly relative’s likelihood of experiencing a fall. If they decide they are at risk, they can help you create an action plan.

Personal alarms

Personal alarms come in many shapes and sizes, and are designed to help older people call for help if they suffer a fall or feel unwell. Our Pearl Advanced and Care Go pendants come with fall detection technology.

Our personal alarm service is monitored 24 hours a day, and in the event of an emergency we can call friends, family and the emergency services.