Luckily, falls needn’t feel like an inevitable part of growing old. There are things that you can do to maintain your independence and reduce your risk of suffering a serious fall. Keep reading to learn more.

Why is fall prevention important?

Fall prevention is about protecting your independence and long-term health. Falls are one of the leading causes of older people going into residential care and can make it harder for you to stay active and live a healthy, fulfilling retirement.

Why is fall prevention misunderstood?

When younger people talk about fall prevention, it’s not unusual to feel patronised or like you’re being spoken down to. Your first reaction may be to ignore what your younger relatives say and tell yourself that everything’s okay. And this, of course, is fine – your risk of falling may well be lower than your family or caregiver assumes. However, that doesn’t mean fall prevention is something you shouldn’t consider.

Falls are the number one reason for older people visiting A&E, and in around 5% of cases older people fracture bones and need to stay in hospital. Fall prevention is designed to prolong your independence, not stifle it. And when family and friends talk about it, there’s a good chance they’re hearts are in the right place and they’re trying to keep you safe.

What are the most common risk factors?

You can split the most common risk factors for falls into three categories. Each one can have a significant effect on your chances of falling, and most elderly people tend to fit into one or more of these groups.

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Physical

These are the gradual changes that happen to your body over time, like worsening eyesight or thinning bones.

blue stickman riding a bike

Behavioural

These are the things you do or don’t do. For example, not getting enough exercise can reduce your muscle strength and increase your chances of falling over.

Blue cartoon house

Environmental

These are the things in your home or local community that increase your risk of falling over. They include slippery pavements and trip hazards.

What can you do to avoid falls?

There are lots of things that you can do to stay healthy and reduce your risk of falling. Below are some of the simplest steps that older adults can take to stay on their feet.

Elderly woman riding a bike through the park

Stay Active

While it’s nice to enjoy a slower pace of life during your retirement, not getting enough physical activity can dramatically increase your chances of developing a serious illness and lead to muscle wastage.

It’s recommended that over-65s get at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise (or 1.5 hours of vigorous exercise) every week. It’s also important for older adults to participate in strength training, and regularly work on their flexibility and balance.

By maintaining a more active lifestyle, you can improve your muscle strength, posture and coordination, and reduce your risk of falling over.

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Eat and drink regularly

Eating less when you’re older is quite normal. This is because you expend less energy and your metabolism has started to slow. It’s still important, however, to keep an eye on your appetite and make sure you eat enough. Dramatic shifts in appetite can be a sign of underlying health conditions, and snacking rather than eating three meals a day can help you keep your strength up.

Drinking plenty of water is also important. Allowing yourself to become dehydrated can make you feel lightheaded and increase your chances of falling over. Signs of dehydration include dry lips, sunken eyes, drowsiness, low blood pressure and dark, strong-smelling urine.

Old man wearing a hearing aid

Take care of your eyes and ears

Your eyes and ears play a key role in your balance and mobility, and neglecting to take care of them can significantly increase your chances of a trip or fall.

Older people should get their eyes tested every two years (although, your optometrist may suggest getting them checked more often) and hearing tests should be taken every two to three years.

Older couple walking holding hands

Choose the right footwear

Picking the right footwear can make a huge difference to the health of your feet and risk of falling. It’s also important to talk to your doctor or podiatrist if you have any issues standing or walking.

When buying new shoes, try to keep these points in mind:

• Make sure your shoes fit well and don’t slip off.
• Look for shoes that are comfortable and supportive, with high sides and low heels.
• If you like wearing slippers, go for a pair that you can fasten and have good grip.

How to prevent falls at home

Home is where the heart is, or at least that’s how the saying goes. But seeing as most accidents happen at work or in the home, making sure your pad is as safe as possible is key to staying on your feet.

Fall-proofing your home may seem daunting at first. Many worry that it’ll mean totally redecorating their home or making drastic changes to the way they live. But you needn’t change everything to improve on safety. Fall-proofing can take as little as pulling up a few rugs and adding a couple lightbulbs.

Whatever it is you decide to do, make sure you feel comfortable with the changes you make. Sacrificing home comforts in the name of safety can negatively affect your mood, and there’s no point making changes that make you unhappy.

Here are a few quick tips for making your home safer:

  • Add handrails to both sides of the stairs. This will make it easier to access other floors and means you’ll have something to grab hold of if you lose your footing. It’s also important to make sure the handrails are fastened securely and that you don’t carry anything too heavy down the stairs.
  •  Take out any rugs or carpets you don’t need. While some foot mats can help you keep your floors clean and dry, which is perfect for mitigating falls, some rugs, especially those that are curled or threadbare, can get in the way.
  • Take a look around your home. If you see any areas that are poorly lit, add a lamp or nightlight. These will help you avoid trip hazards and create a lighter, airier feel.
  • Tidy away clutter and keep areas like corridors and hallways clear. Things like magazines and shoes are particularly hazardous.

How to avoid falls outdoors

When it comes to avoiding falls while you’re out and about, the biggest piece of advice is usually to make sure you’re wearing the right footwear. That aside, most senior care experts offer the following pieces of advice:

  • First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for uneven paths or obstacles.
  • When the weather is bad, consider taking a route that avoids icy paths or take advantage of local delivery services.
  • Use a cane or walker if your GP recommends one. This will give you the support you need and help you get about safely.
  • If you’re taking an evening stroll or think you’re going to be out after dark, pack a flashlight so you’re not at risk of tripping over something in the dark.
  • Wear a shoulder bag or rucksack to keep your hands free.

What to do if you fall

If the worst should happen and you do suffer a fall, it’s important to remain calm and take a moment to collect your thoughts and check you’re not seriously hurt. If everything is okay and you feel strong enough to stand up, roll onto your hands and knees and look for a sturdy piece of furniture that you can use to support yourself.

While holding on to the furniture with both hands, slowly haul yourself up, taking as much time as you need. Once you’re back on your feet, check yourself over again before carrying on with your day.

If you hurt yourself during a fall or you think you’ll struggle to get back up, try to call for help. You can do this by making loud noises, crawling to a phone and calling for an ambulance or, if you have one, using a personal alarm.

Joining a monitoring service like ours means you’re always protected and can use your personal alarm to call for help. Our Pearl Advanced comes with sophisticated fall detection technology that can tell if you’ve fallen over, and our Care Go GPS alarm, which also comes with fall detection capability, can be taken with you wherever you go.