FALLING OVER. It resonates differently depending on our age. When we’re young we trip over and a parent or teacher picks us up, patches up our knee or elbow, and sends us on our way. As we hit our late teens and twenties falling over is a bit of a laugh, usually because we are a bit the worse for wear after a night out with friends.
But as we get older, the language changes and ‘a fall’ becomes a worry with recovery times increasing exponentially with age. For the over 65s, according to Age UK, it can be a major concern. The Institute for Ageing shows annually, more than one in four people in this age bracket, suffer a fall with 76,000 hip fractures occuring. Exploring how to prevent falls and ways to cope if you do, is the first step towards staying in control.
Put simply, we should do all we can to avoid falls. It needs to be our number one priority as the fall, and what happens after it can be the difference between living an active older age, and one which is plagued by ill-health and poor mobility. And the best diet to follow is the common sense one.
Eat balanced meals, make sure you maintain a healthy weight, stay hydrated and don’t duck out of regular medical checks. Take supplements if it is recommended but most importantly, keep moving and keep building your strength, because that more than anything will protect you.
The acid test is whether you get down – and back up – from the floor. If not, at the very least work on getting up from the sofa or armchair using your leg strength only.
One step ahead
The thought of falling is frightening but if you’re at risk, a “fall plan” can help take away some of the worry and provide reassurance for you, and those close to you. A priority is to have a named contact, whether a friend, family member, or emergency services, who can be reached should a fall occur. Have a think about the best way to reach your named contact too. Phone, text, an auto-dialler in your home or via an emergency alarm pendant. If you can, share a spare key with a trusted person or store it in a key safe on the outside wall of your home.
A vital element of your plan is aftercare. If you can continue living independently, you’ll certainly need some help in the early days, speak to friends and family about. Assistance is usually available from NHS reablement carers for up to six weeks after hospital discharge.
Put your right foot forward
Post-fall recovery can be complex and protracted. Depending on the severity of the injuries, physical therapy to regain mobility and occupational therapy to help increase confidence in daily tasks will be invaluable. Any underlying medical conditions that were contributing factors should also be addressed, such as problems with vision or balance.
Falls can cause emotional trauma. If that’s the case, counselling or support groups may help with anxiety. With time, patience, and proper medical care, most people recovery fully, however making small changes at home to reduce future risks makes sense.
Don’t slip up
Light up your home. Now is not the time for mood lighting, you need to see where you’re going. If flicking lights on and off feels like a nuisance, install motion-activated night lights instead.
Have a de-clutter. Not only will you find this mentally invigorating, but removing hazards such as loose rugs, excess furniture or cables trailing across the floor will make your home far safer. Try re-arranging remaining furniture to make for an easier and safer space.
Handrails or grab bars in your bathroom are a good idea, especially around the loo and shower. They don’t have to be institutional white now either as there are some well-designed options available. These have literally proved to be a lifesaver many times over, so well worth considering.
But while these adaptations can make a difference to overall safety and confidence, the real falls flashpoint is on the stairs.
Give yourself a lift
Shockingly, stair falls claim in excess of 700 lives each year and hospitalise over 43,000 according to RoSPA. These figures continue to grow as studies show nearly a third of adults over 70 struggle to use the stairs. So, what’s the answer? Aside from working on our balance and strength, the solution could be a homelift.
Whether you’ve already experienced a fall at home or are starting to feel uncertain on the stairs, a home lift from Stiltz is the 21st century answer to moving between floors safely. Preserve your energy for the nicer things in life and forget about the worry of trips and falls each time you use the stairs.
An Occupational Therapist’s viewpoint from Stuart Barrow, OT:
“A home lift can serve as a valuable investment to future-proof your home and provide a contingency plan in case of disability deterioration. By installing a domestic lift, you ensure that your residence remains accessible and functional for individuals with mobility challenges, regardless of any future changes in their condition. It eliminates the need for stair climbing, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.
“Domestic lifts offers long-term benefits, as it accommodates individuals with varying degrees of mobility impairment, including those who may require wheelchairs or walking aids. As a result, you can continue living comfortably in your own home, promoting independence, and improving quality of life. In case of disability deterioration, the home lift serves as a crucial contingency plan, ensuring that you can still navigate your home safely and efficiently”.