When we reach the age of 65 and above, falling may lead to injuries such as fractures, which could affect our normal activities.
As we grow older, our bodily functions change or deteriorate. For example:
- We have a reduced sense of balance
- Our reaction or response is slower
- Our muscles weaken
- Our vision worsens
Another cause of falls is medical conditions. Some conditions which may increase the risk of falls are:
- Stroke and Parkinson's disease that cause balance and walking disorders
- Heart and lung diseases
- Joint disorders, like osteoarthritis
- Bladder conditions
Medications can also be a factor. Diuretics, sedatives or anti-hypertensive medications can affect you as you grow older.
Reducing The Risk Of Falls At Home
Most falls happen at home. This usually happens to those who are left alone at home or have difficulty walking. Here are some tips to reduce the risks of falling at home:
- Scan your home to spot potential areas that may be dangerous
- Be aware of fall hazards and risks, especially in the home
Below is a list of guidelines you can follow to reduce such risks.
In The Living Room:
- Ensure wires and cords are untangled and kept safely
- Arrange your furniture so that it is easy and safe to move around
In The Kitchen
- Use a stool if you need to reach a high shelf
- Move commonly used items to a lower shelf for an easier reach
- Ensure that wires and cords are safely-tucked away
In The Bathroom
- Install grab rails on walls beside the toilet
- Use non-skid mats
- Consider shower chair and portable shower head
In The Bedroom
- Place light switches within reach
- Install night lights between bathroom and bedroom
- Get out of bed slowly to avoid dizziness
On The Stairways
- Don't leave things lying around the stairway and ensure there is good lighting
- Install handrails on either or both sides of the stairs if possible
Activities of Daily Living
- Wear rubber-soled shoes at home to prevent any slipping
- Use walking aids if necessary
- Ensure regular check-ups and take medication as prescribed
- Be aware of the side-effects of the medication prescribed
- Ensure that spills are cleaned at once
Proper Hand Rail Design
- Wall clearance = 9cm.
- Height from stairs = 94cm from edge of step.
- Shape for grip = 38mm in diameter.
- Surface for adequate friction = matte varnish. Avoid chrome.
- Hand rail must be securely mounted.
You can also watch a
SingHealth video on fall prevention tips.
Following these instructions does not guarantee that your care recipient will not fall. However, it helps to be aware of what you can do to reduce accidents.
Reducing The Risk Of Falls Through Exercise
More importantly, exercising regularly is key to preventing falls. Exercising on a daily basis helps one to remain physically active, keep fit, improve muscle strength, and maintain good postural balance.
The physiotherapist will be able to help your care recipient develop a programme to reduce your risk of falling. Research has shown that:
- Training a patient's sense of balance is most beneficial.
- Exercise needs to be sustained for patients to continue receiving the benefits.
- Tai chi is a good form of exercise which concentrates on a person's balance and therefore helps to reduce the frequency of falls. Did you know that NParks hosts many tai chi groups at their parks? To find a tai chi group near you, visit NParks' website.
Check With Your Doctor
Although falls are more common in older people, they should not be accepted as a normal part of ageing. There is no acceptable number of falls and a single fall can cause serious injuries. It is therefore important that you consult a doctor even if your care recipient only had a single fall.
To do a proper fall evaluation, it is important that the healthcare professional possesses the appropriate skills and experience in managing falls. This may require a referral to a geriatrician (a doctor who specialises in the care of older adults), or the hospital's fall clinic.
The doctor will:
- Review your care recipient's history of falls
- Review his/ her medication
- Evaluate his/ her gait (that is, the way you walk) and sense of balance
- Test your care recipient's vision
- Determine the status of your care recipient's cardiovascular health, including heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure
- Review his/ her need to use walking aids, such as canes and walkers
- Refer him/ her to a physiotherapist for training and balancing
A physiotherapist or occupational therapist may need to visit your home and assess your care recipient's needs more accurately.
It is also important for patients to have regular follow-up consultations with their doctor. This will help him to manage and detect any new risk factors for falls earlier. It is also necessary to keep track of any deterioration in your care recipient's health that may require changes or modifications to your environment.
Other Useful Links
Here is a video showing you how to prevent falls at home and outside of home.
For more information, you may like to visit the following websites: