If you have an elderly parent who has fallen over or are worried about falling over yourself, take action today and put in some preventative measures. The majority of falls can be prevented so keep reading to find out how.
Falling over isn’t an inevitable part of getting older. Yet despite this, a third of people aged over 65 will fall over at least once a year, and this rises to 50% for the over 80’s. A fall can shake someone’s confidence, have a serious impact on mobility or even, in 10% of cases, result in death within a year.
So why do we fall over, and how can we prevent them happening? ElWell physiotherapist Nancy Farmer, who specializes in elderly rehabilitation, has answered our questions about preventing falls.
What Causes Older Adults to Have Balance Problems?
There’s no one reason why elderly people fall over – many factors can lead to a fall. Some of these risk factors can’t be changed (for example, women are more likely to fall than men, and Caucasian women are at an even higher risk). Fortunately, many of them can be and I’ll go through this now. Some examples of risks factors that are modifiable are; poor strength and balance, physical inactivity, the home environment, medication use, vision and alcohol intake to name but a few. With a targeted multifactorial approach preventing falls and a negative falls cycle is possible! Below are some measures you can take to prevent a negative falls cycle and declining function.
Strength and Balance Exercises Can HelpWith Falls Prevention
Physically as we get older, we lose muscle mass which is what gives our muscles strength. This starts going down from the age of 30, and by the time someone is 80 they may have lost up to 40% of their muscle strength. When you think of it in that sense, it makes sense that older people can fall over more. Luckily, you’re never too old to do something about it! Actually, the over 65s have the most to gain from exercise.
Simple strength and balance exercises for a minimum of two times a week can help improve balance as well as building up muscle and bone density. Both of which can help prevent falls and give better fall outcomes.
Eat Well to Prevent Falls
Building up bone strength means you’re stronger so are less unlikely to fall – and if you do take a tumble, it can be less likely to break a bone or have a serious impact.
Reach for calcium-rich foods, such as dairy, broccoli, oily fish where you eat the bones and almonds. But calcium alone isn’t enough. Our bodies need vitamin D to absorb the calcium.
From April to September, most people produce all the vitamin D they need in their own bodies through direct sunlight, but this will not be the case if you don’t spend the necessary time outside. Older adults can keep up their vitamin D intake throughout the year with access to a heat lamp or by taking a nutritional supplement.
Prevent Falls at Home
Your home is your haven, but there could be trip hazards there. A good step to preventing falls is to look around your rooms and identify anything that could cause a fall. It could be an idea to do this with a carer, friend or family member who can help you look impartially at your home. Is there clutter on the floor? Are the corners of the rugs up? Any loose wires? Making simple changes at home could be the difference
between falling or not.
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