Falls FAQ

What can I do to make sure I can see clearly?
  • Always wear glasses if you need them, but remember to remove reading glasses before you walk
  • Have your eyes checked regularly
  • Keep areas where you regularly move about well lit. 100-watt bulbs are recommended, except where this exceeds the recommended wattage for your particular light fittings
  • Have a torch handy for use in the event of a power failure.
What can I do to reduce the risk of falling?

We cannot remove all of the risks, but we can certainly reduce them by:

What do I need to do to move safely around my home?

Take extra care when standing up, reaching or sitting down.When moving from lying down to standing, sit up first and stay sitting a moment or two. Then stand up slowly and stand a few seconds before trying to walk.

When you first wake up, sit on the edge of the bed for a while to fully orientate yourself before you get out of bed. If you are not close to the telephone when it rings, don't rush to it. Fast, sudden moves could throw you off balance.

Always use your recommended walking aids if you are unsteady. Make sure that you (or someone else) regularly checks the condition of any equipment that you use. For example, check that the rubber tips on walking sticks are not worn down.

Make sure you have access to a telephone or an aid call button that you can reach to call for help if you fall. Consider carrying a portable phone.

What increases the risk of falling?

Common hazards in the home that increase the risk of falling include:

  • General clutter and furniture that is placed across walking areas
  • Tripping hazards such as loose or frayed rugs, uneven floors, trailing wires or clothing that trails along the floor
  • Poor lighting
  • Wet or slippery floors
  • Items stored out of easy reach
  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • Lack of, or the wrong equipment or aids
What should I do if I fall?

If you or a loved one falls over it can be quite frightening. Remember, your reaction after a fall is critical. What happens next can either reduce further harm or, if not managed properly, can cause more injuries than the fall itself.

It is important to remain as calm as possible. The person who has fallen should take a few deep breaths. Check to see if there are any injuries. If the person says that they are not hurt and that they feel strong enough to stand, encourage them to get up slowly and carefully. It may help them to hold onto furniture, providing that this is stable.  It’s a good idea for them to sit and rest for a while until they are properly orientated.

If you believe the person is injured, do not attempt to get them up. Dial 999.

What should I do if I need to call for an ambulance?

The advice on the NHS choices website is:
“Always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk. Once you are connected to an ambulance 999 operator or call handler, they will ask you a series of questions to establish what is wrong. This will allow them to determine the most appropriate response as quickly as possible.

Do not hang up

Wait for a response from the ambulance control room as they might have further questions for you. The person who handles your call will let you know when they have all the information they need. You might also be instructed on how to give first aid until the ambulance arrives”.

You can find out more from the emergency services page at the NHS choices website.

When should I see a doctor about a fall?

If you or someone you care about is 65 years old or over, remind him or her that their doctor should consider their risk of falling at least once each year. Do not wait until the doctor asks you about your risk of falling. You should tell your doctor about any time you have fallen, particularly if you are older. This is regardless of whether or not you were hurt. 
Falling or almost falling gives a doctor important information about a person's health. Falls do not always mean that a person is getting weaker.  Someone can fall as a side effect of the medicines that he or she is taking or how much of those medicines they take.

Changes in eyesight can also make a person more likely to fall. It is important to tell the doctor if you were wearing glasses or contacts when you fell.  Tell them when you last had your eye sight tested. The doctor may also ask you what time you fell because eye problems can make seeing clearly harder at night, for example.
The  doctor may  ask about your home  because sometimes there are things that can be done to make the home safer, even if it is just increasing the watts of  light bulbs to 100 to make things easier to see. The doctor may need to know what you were doing when you fell to see if there are ways to prevent further falls. Simple changes like moving pots and pans or dishes in cabinets can make a fall less likely. The doctor may also ask about any pets and talk about safety. The question is not whether to keep the pets, but what can be done to live together safely.

Remember, many falls are preventable. Helping people staying on their feet and preventing falls helps them stay at home.

Who is more at risk of falling?

Some groups of people are more at risk of falling, particularly if there are hazards in their homes. Groups of people who are more at risk of falling include those who:

  • Suffer from chronic health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, low blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or other cognitive impairments. These conditions can cause lack of co-ordination, dizzy spells and weakness.
  • Are recovering from post-operative surgery or a serious injury or who have a physical disability.
  • Have a loss of balance due to an infection, injury or fear of falling.
  • Take medicines that have side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness or other loss of functioning. Side effects are more likely to occur if the person is regularly taking a number of medicines each day.
  • Experience a decline in their muscle strength and joint flexibility. Reduced muscle strength and joint flexibility can make it more difficult for a person to stand up, walk, get out of a chair or their bed.
  • Have a slower reaction time. The nerves that carry information to and from the brain can deteriorate as the result of disease and as we get older. This slows reaction time and the ability to move away from obstacles quickly enough. For example, avoiding a slippery patch on a floor.
  • Suffer from poor vision. A person may not see as well as they used to which can affect their coordination and balance. It also means that they may not see tripping hazards such as a trailing wire or a pair of slippers left around etc.
Why does age increase the risk of falling and the impact?

As we get older and more unsteady on our feet, the risk of falling becomes greater and the risk of serious injury more likely. This is because of normal age-related physical changes, the prevalence of long term medical conditions and possible side effects of medicines that are taken for those medical conditions.

Older people are more likely to sustain a fracture if they fall, particularly to the wrist or hip. Hip fractures can be seriously debilitating. The likelihood of sustaining a hip fracture, along with the negative side effects, increases roughly tenfold for every decade after the age of 50. Women are particularly vulnerable due to a higher occurrence of osteoporosis.

For people over the age of 75 the impact is even greater. Falls are the most common cause of death in this age group.

Equally important are the significant psychological effects. A recent study by Portegijs (2012) suggested that damaged confidence – not just physical injury – can sometimes be responsible for a reduction in mobility.  Portegijs found that adults who were more confident about their balance performed better in balance and mobility tests.

The good news is that older adults do not need to let the fear of falling rule their lives. Regular exercise, a healthy balanced diet, good health care and reducing hazards in the home can all help a person to avoid falls and stay independent longer.

Why does being able to see properly help to prevent falls?

Loss of vision can affect coordination and balance, so being able to see properly can help to prevent fallsGood lighting can help you to see trip hazards such as an open drawer or a spilt drink.

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