The fact that – annually – more than three million people over the age of 65 suffer a fall in the UK is justification alone for an Info Sheet on this… But that’s not the worst of it!
Plenty of younger people take a tumble, too, while many others choose not to report their accidents… And although the consequences of having a fall may be no more than an embarrassing story, they can – of course – be as serious as a fatality. This Info Sheet explains some of the things you can almost immediately do to reduce your chances of taking a fall.
Just a Minute!
If you’re reading this article from top to bottom, we’ll immediately interrupt ourselves to tell you something: by the time you reach the end of this paragraph, around five people aged 65 plus will have had a serious fall… And, granted, this is an unusually-long Info Sheet, but if you read the whole thing through, then by the time you finish, as many as 34 people will have fallen somehow, and either be dead, or in need of medical attention.
Before looking at some very specific issues, it’s worth mentioning general health and medication. Many drugs – prescribed or otherwise – warn of side effects that include drowsiness or dizziness, for example. Obviously, this can contribute to accidents… Have it on your radar.
Your inner ear is absolutely essential for your sense of balance… So while hearing loss might be down to something very simple – an ear infection or a build up of wax, for example –don’t take any chances: get it checked.
Vision / Lighting
One old-school comedian jokes that when he goes for an eye test, the optician points to the chart, reads out the letters and says, "True or false?" Let’s hope it never comes to that for any of us! Either way, you might be surprised how many falls are caused by things that would be quite easily seen were it not for poor vision and low lighting… Everything’s a trip hazard if you can’t see it!
So first the obvious questions…
Do you need corrective lenses? So many people admit that they should wear them but don’t! Similarly, is your current spectacle or contact-lens prescription up to date? The NHS recommends you have an eye test at least once every two years. As and when you do make prescription changes, be sure that you get used to them before galloping off anywhere! It takes a while for the eyes to adjust to new lenses.
Types of Glasses
One of the visitors to Sloane Square Clinic has a pair of glasses the tint of which changes depending on the brightness around him. Clever stuff! They wouldn’t be ideal, however, if he were at greater risk of falling, and made a transition from light to dark as entering and exiting over a doorstep or some such.
Keep in mind, too, that if you wear bifocal lenses you may notice that they sometimes aren’t so effective when outside, or on stairs. Progressive lenses can actually be something of a hinderance under those circumstances. Be mindful of that and – whatever you do – be sure you’re sitting down when you clean your glasses or swap from one pair for another!
Not Seeing What You See:
Sometimes people just don’t recognise things around them as trip hazards! That’s because those things have been there a long time and never caused trouble before… Take a look around: are there pedestal mats, rugs or loose door mats and carpets? If there are, either get rid of them or stick them down with the strongest possible carpet tape. Are there uneven floorboards? Or wobbly paving stones on your path? Do any wires trail on the floor?
The grandfather of one of our team used to have a chair that rose up to help him into a standing position. And yet its power cable was always trailing across the carpet… The irony! Take a good look round and ask yourself, with brutal honesty: could somebody conceivably trip over that?
We’ve all done it! It’s just so easy to catch the back end of any sandal, flip-flop or moccasin that flaps a little with every step. If you lack co-ordination or are becoming even a little unsteady, these things are simply asking for trouble. Slippers can also be difficult. They should have a good grip on their soles, fit well and have a heel cap.
But that’s not all…
Many other types of footwear have the most appalling grip. Check the soles carefully before you buy a pair. Be practical. Avoid high heels at all costs! Ensure your shoes fit well, and keep in mind that ‘slip-ons’ can be particularly treacherous if they fit too loosely.
Bare Feet and Socks
Those of you who come to the Sloane Square Clinic and choose to do yoga or Pilates already know the problem with some socks… You can’t always get the footing you need. Plenty of socks have a rubber grip on the sole, though! You can find them online or in a mobility, dance or Pilates shop. Try a pair: you might find wearing them lets you be more surefooted round the house. You must, whatever else, avoid walking around bare foot, in tights, or in socks that don’t have any additional grip.
The bathroom – with its inevitable combination of bare feet and smooth, wet surfaces – obviously represents a serious concern. Make sure that the bath / shower / toilet have grab bars and handrails. Also, it seems like staggeringly obvious advice but you simply must make sure that these are fixed at a height that is useful! The bath and shower floors, too, can be fitted with nonslip mats. There are a great many product options to consider here, including adhesive tape that you can place on floors.
Help OTHERS Prevent Falling
Obviously, everything we suggest here is good advice to give when one wants to help others prevent a fall as well. The real key, though, is to talk sensitively with them about the subject.
…that lets you find out at what kind of risk your friends and relatives are from a fall. Keep in mind that many people feel that, while these things do happen, they won’t happen to them. Similarly, even those that think they might be at risk of a fall tend to presuppose that they’ll somehow be okay.
In a situation that lets you physically observe a person, keep a look out for tell-tale signs that the risk of falling is increasing: you might notice that they’re using walls, furniture or even other people to move about.
If that seems to be the case, consider that physical therapy can still make a huge difference at that stage. Numerous exercises and disciplines can help you keep strong and balanced. To find out more about the help we can offer in the Croydon area, call 020 8655 1664.
Sloane Square Clinic cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of any action or inaction based on its Newsletter or Info Sheets. If you have any doubts or concerns over medical and health issues, our best advice is always to pop in to see us, visit your GP or call NHS Direct on 111 to discuss your health.