DEADLY falls are on the rise: but there are steps you can take to avoid them.
In the last decade the number of falls, particularly in older people, has nearly doubled in Australia, and about half of all hospitalised falls happen at home.
So how can you prevent fall accidents? According to personal alarm provider MePACS, falls are the main reason clients activate their alarms.
Here MePACS sales and marketing manager Karen Smith gives tips on how to prevent falls at home.
1. See a physio
Physiotherapists play a significant role in helping older people avoid fall accidents.
A physio will not only offer advice on how to avoid falls but will address any concerns patients may have about falls.
Fall prevention is not just about learning how to avoid triggers; it is also about being healthy. One of the main reasons seniors succumb to fall accidents is weak joints and limbs.
A physio can tailor a program of exercises to help increase strength and flexibility. If you have just been injured or are not able to walk correctly, they may recommend walking aids.
2. Home review
It's a good idea to book an appointment with an occupational therapist to review your home environment. Their primary role is to help seniors improve their ability to perform their daily tasks, prevent loss of function, and avoid disruption.
They will evaluate you, your home, and any other immediate environment, and offer advice to you, your caregiver, and your family members.
Recommendations may include modifying the home by installing handrails and grab bars, changing behaviour and activity patterns, a new workout routine, or removing clutter and rugs.
3. Check your meds
Side effects of medications are one of the leading causes of falling in older people. All types of drugs can cause falls, however some put older people at more risk. They include medications that affect the brain (psychoactive), blood pressure medications and drugs that lower blood sugar.
To reduce your risk, take a close look at the type of medicine you take. Consult your GP to know the drugs that can compromise your strength and cognitive function.
They may review your medications and advise on any that you may want to eliminate or reduce to lower your chances of falling. Do not stop taking any medications without consulting your doctor.
4. Feet first
It's worth seeing a podiatrist, as feet play a crucial role in enhancing mobility and balance. Most older people have poor balance and weak muscle strength, which increases their chances of falling.
Podiatrists can assess risk factors including decreased range of motion, foot pain and toe deformity.
They can identify and correct gait and biomechanics abnormalities.
They may also prescribe a suitable exercise program as well as issue footwear and foot health advice to help with knee pain and arthritic knees.
5. Have an eye test
Get your eyes checked regularly by an optometrist.
Poor vision is one of the main factors that can cause a fall. As you get older, your risk of developing vision-related problems also increases.
If you wear spectacles, the optometrist will ensure that they are optimised and up to date.
You will also be taught about the dangers of looking through the bifocal segment on your glasses when walking, especially on stairs.
6. Eat healthily
One of the reasons the number of falls has almost doubled in Australia over the past 10 years is poor eating habits.
You may want to consider seeing a dietitian who can help develop a healthy diet plan. This way your body will get the essential nutrients it needs to help boost your strength and vision and prevent the risk of falls.
7. Be alarmed
With one in three people over the age of 65 falling each year, and half of them not able to get up by themselves, it's important to be able to call for help immediately if this does happen.
Falling and lying on the floor for an extended period of time can lead to a cascade of functional decline, loss of confidence and independence compared to those who were able to raise an alert with help quickly available.
Wearing a personal alarm at all times, that is connected to a 24/7 response service, gives you the peace of mind and safety in knowing that if a fall should happen or you feel unwell, help is available within minutes.
8. Be protected
Hip protectors are foam pads or plastic shields that are fitted in pockets of specially-designed underwear.
Like shock absorbers, they are typically worn to cushion the hip in case of a sideways fall and prevent fractures. Limb protectors help the arms and legs in case of a fall.
9. Take vitamin supplements
Vitamin D and calcium are crucial nutrients that help to support bone development, neuromuscular coordination, and muscle strength. Clinical studies have shown older adults who are vitamin D deficient are a risk factor of hip fractures and falls.
As you get older, you need to work harder to keep your bones and muscles strong. Taking supplements can help strengthen your muscles and function, thus reducing the risk of falling. Vitamin D helps to control the transportation of calcium into the muscle cells. It also helps to regulate protein synthesis on the muscle cells, thus helping to repair and build muscle fibers.
If you are vitamin D deficient because of improper dietary intake or lack of sun exposure one way to improve your vitamin D level is through supplementation.
However, when buying vitamin supplements, ensure that you buy it from a reputable dealer. Also, ensure that you take the right dosage to avoid suffering from side effects. If you are on other medications, consult your GP for advice before taking this supplement.
10. Be aware
Many elderly Australians are at risk of falls because of a lack of knowledge about the dangers of fall accidents. One of the best ways to reduce the number of fall accidents amongst the elderly in Australia is to raise awareness about fall prevention.
Just as the Government has invested heavily in educating its citizens on the importance of driving safely and why they need to quit smoking, the same awareness campaign needs to be done to enlighten the elderly on falls risk.
If senior Australians are empowered with this knowledge, they are more likely to take extra measures to ensure that they protect themselves against falls.