Falls prevention and how you can help your loved ones

What is a fall?

“A fall is defined as an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently
on the ground or floor or other lower level.”
World Health Organisation (2020)

 

Has your loved one fallen?   Can you remember how they fell?   How did they feel?

 

A client shared her experiences of her recent fall. 

“I remember rushing down the stairs at home and my slipper came off, I lost my balance and slid down the stairs. Thankfully I wasn’t injured. Initially I remember feeling shocked and angry at myself for rushing. I then felt hugely embarrassed and feeling grateful that there was no-one there to see me.”

She goes on to say;

“Then I felt a feeling of sadness, wishing for my loved one to be there with me, to help me up, give me a hug, make me a cup of tea, laugh with me and to help me to move on. Being alone I felt an overwhelming feeling of vulnerability, mostly as I had lost all sense of control for a few minutes and couldn’t clearly recall what had happened. Interestingly, to this day, I still can’t remember the reason why I was rushing.”

My clients describe feeling ‘shaken up’ and anxious. Many of my clients exhibit a loss of confidence and need support, encouragement and praise to carry on with their everyday activities. Serious falls can lead to broken bones and hospitalisation.

Therapeutic benefits of a cup of tea

My experience of falling has taught me the valuable gift of empathy, helping me to understand what it feels like to fall
and to understand why the fall happened and to explore the ways that falls can be prevented.”

What can cause a fall?

A single or combination of factors can cause a fall, including:

Health and physical ability

  • Some medications can cause dizziness
  • Reduced mobility and loss of balance
  • Effects of existing diagnoses, such as Alzheimer’s disease and low blood pressure related to diabetes
  • Dehydration
    Most falls take place in the home or garden
  • Reduced vision

Environmental factors

  • Cluttered environment
  • Uneven rugs
  • Trailing cables
  • Poor lightning
  • Climbing up to reach items
  • Steps

Top 10 ways to prevent falls

 

1.  Health and medication

Encourage your loved one to take care of their general health. Having regular checkups can help to monitor factors such as blood pressure and vision. Ears and hearing play a focal part in balance. Footcare is crucial. Ensure that your loved one’s toenails are trimmed regularly. Consider a podiatrist (chiropodist) for professional input. 

Dizziness or lightheadedness may lead to loss of balance. It can be associated with medical conditions or may be a side effect of medication, especially if your loved one is taking four or more medications at the same time. It is important for your loved ones to continue to take prescription medication and to consult their GP if you have any concerns. It is advisable that your loved ones medication is reviewed annually to make sure that they’re still suitable.

 

2.  Diet and hydration

Eating a healthy varied diet with fruit and vegetables

Having a healthy, varied diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, will help to keep your loved ones energy levels high, and bones and muscles strong. Calcium and vitamin D are vital for maintaining healthy bones. Most of our vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight, so feel free to enjoy the summer days, with suitable sun protection.

Eating regularly can help to keep your loved ones blood sugar levels steady. Regular smaller meals are better for your loved one rather than
three bigger meals. Tiredness can increase the risk of falls. Explore food that give your loved one sustained energy, such as pasta or wholemeal bread.

Make sure that your loved one has had enough to drink to reduce the risk of dehydration, which can increase the risk of falling.  Alcohol can lead to loss of coordination and can impact on medication. It can significantly increase the risk of a fall. 

 

3.  Lifestyle

Help your loved one to develop a daily routine which involves meaningful leisure and social activities to enhance their well being. Include regular meals and restful breaks.  Encourage your loved one to stop an activity before they become over-tired. Planning activities over the course of a week can reduce the need to rush to ‘get everything done’.  

 

4.  Mobility and balance

Keeping physically active can help to maintain strength, agility and stamina. Exercises, such a walking and swimming can help your loved one to maintain their strength and stamina. Regular strength and balance exercises can reduce the risk of having a fall.

If your loved one lives in Leicester and Leicestershire and they’re aged over 65, they may be eligible to participate in a a 24-week programme tailored to those who have previously fallen or worry about falling and is designed to help improve balance and stability, click here for more information.

 

5.  Environment

Modifying your loved ones environment can significantly help to reduce the risk of falls. Remove hazards such as trailing wires, clutter, and rugs, especially in the hall, landing, doorways, and stairs. Keep walkways and halls clear. Look at ways that you can organise your loved ones home so that climbing, stretching, and bending are kept to a minimum. This will help to reduce the likelihood of bumping into things.

Lighting is essential. Consider installing a motion activated light that comes on when needed, particularly on the stairs. Bright lights in lamps can help so that your loved one can see clearly, make sure that their home is well-lit. Place a night light near the bed to make sure if your loved one wakes up in the night they can see where they’re going.  Consider marking the edges of steps with a high contrast adhesive strip to make them more visible.

Putting a collar with a bell can help

Encourage your loved one to ask for help with tasks that may require climbing up or overreaching. Store frequently used items such as tea making items, within easy reach.  Mop up spillages straight away and look out for pets underfoot, placing a collar with a bell on a cat can help.

 

6.  Clothing and footwear

Encourage your loved one to wear clothes that do not trail, such as trousers. Long dresses or saris can catch the heel, particularly when your loved one climbs the stairs.

If your loved one has osteoporosis, you can help to protect against hip fractures if they fall, by encouraging them to wear hip protectors. These are garments with integral cushioning, designed to provide the user with wearable hip protection.

Make sure that your loved ones shoes are comfortable and secure. Flip-flops and sandals can cause instability as they can make it difficult to grip. 

 

7.  Equipment

There is a wealth of equipment available to help to reduce risks. It is vital that the equipment meets your loved ones needs and that it is suitable for their home environment. Equipment can help your loved one to get on and off the toilet, in and out of the bath/shower and in and out of bed.

When exploring suitable beds, there are lots to choose from including hospital beds,
low profiling beds and height adjustable beds. These are designed to accommodate a
mobile hoist which can lift your loved one if they are unable to walk.

Consider providing somewhere for your loved one to sit in the bathroom and kitchen, particularly if your loved one is prone to dizzy spells.

8.  Assistive technology

Pendant or lifeline alarm systems can be used to assist your loved one to get help in an emergency. This involves a pendant with a large red button, which is pressed by your loved one. This alerts a call centre, the adviser speaks to your loved one and can call you and the emergency services. 

Wearing a pendant alarm all the time can give you and your loved one peace of mind as can be accessed in the event of a fall.

9.  Adaptations

Specialist adaptations, such as a stairlift or a through floor lift can reduce the energy required when completing the stairs. Grab rails and chair raisers can assist with helping your loved one to get on and off the toilet, chair or settee. Consider installing grab rails in the bathroom and a second handrail on the stairs to help your loved one.

Specialist washer-dryer height adjustable toilets can make it easier to get on and off the toilet,
they include an internal douche spray to wash and warm air to dry.  

 

Most falls occur in the bathroom

A washer-dryer toilet removes the need to reach for the toilet paper and wipe.  Height adjustable toilets that can be raised to assist someone with mobility, balance issues, or toilet lifters that are the toilet equivalent of riser recliner chairs.

Evidence shows that most falls occur in the bathroom. Good lighting, non-slip flooring, specialist seating and grab rails can help with fall prevention.

10.   Slow down

It is important to plan ahead and to help your loved ones to slow down. It is important to remind your loved one to slow down and to remind them to be speak kindly to themselves. Encourage them to be flexible with getting tasks done. They will feel better in the long run if they plan their tasks ahead.

 

Summary

Falls prevention matters to help your loved one to continue to maintain their independence at home. It is essential to consider the causes of a fall and to seek professional advice to reduce the risk of falls. If you would like for your loved one to have a personalised Occupational Therapy assessment with a falls prevention focus including a falls test, contact 07341265564 or complete the contact form. I would love to hear from you and identify ways that I can help you to reduce the risk of falls in your loved ones home.

Copyright (2020) Home Independence Occupational Therapy Ltd. A Leicestershire based company