5 ways to reduce the risk of falls
Helping you reduce the risk of slips, trips and falls
When you’re a caregiver, your primary concern is for the safety and wellbeing of your loved one. While there are many elements to consider, the higher risk of falls is often top of mind.
Here we look at how the ageing process affects falls risk and outline some simple changes you can make to help prevent falls.
How does the ageing process affect the risk of falls?
Sadly, once we reach the age of 65, our fall risk increases. Around one in three older Australians have experienced a fall in the past 12 months. Among the contributing factors to this increased risk are a deterioration in physical strength and condition, hazards in the home, decreased vision, and increased personal needs.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do for the person in your care, to help keep them safe and living in their home for longer.
1. Optimise physical strength and condition
As our loved ones age, sometimes they may not get the same nutrition, hydration, and exercise that they used to. Each of these important elements are important for falls prevention as they help prevent muscle and bone-density loss, stabilising blood pressure levels, physical fitness, and general wellbeing.
Good nutrition can be a challenge for the elderly who live alone, or for those with limited mobility or motivation. You should always start with a doctor’s advice. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of dietary supplements, meal delivery services, and qualified dieticians and nutritionists to help ease the burden of managing a balanced diet.
Preventing dehydration may not only reduce the risk of falls but also help with other concerns such as urinary tract infections, weakness, and dizziness.
However, older people can sometimes be reluctant to keep their fluid intake up or forget to drink regularly. Some ideas to help combat this are:
- speaking to their doctor about hydration supplements,
- offering small amounts of their preferred fluids regularly,
- having a favourite cup or drink bottle within easy reach,
- making sure any other carers or home helpers prioritise fluid intake.
Our elderly or those with mobility concerns need a personalised and professionally guided exercise approach. Your GP should always be your first port of call when discussing exercise needs.
They may recommend allied health support from a physiotherapist, podiatrist occupational therapist, or exercise physiologist. If this is the case, you may be able to use your Home Care Package funding to help support you and your loved one. Read more about allied health support.
2. Prevent slips and trips
Stairs or steps are not always the culprits in causing slips and trips. According to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 29% of falls occur on same-level surfaces. There are some ways to reduce these types of falls.
Assess and address transitions between surfaces
Problem areas can include:
- raised or loose edges on carpet, linoleum, tile, and rugs,
- prominent joins or strips between different flooring surfaces.
Reduce slippery or uneven surfaces
Slippery or uneven surfaces are often present in older homes. As part of your Home Care Package, you may be able to access funding to make your loved one’s home safer.
Home care is about helping older Australians live safely in their own homes, and can include some home modifications as part of your funding. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you access this help.
Minimising spills can be a challenging problem to overcome and requires a holistic view and plan. Changing storage containers and the location where they’re kept, using spill-proof cups, specialised meal aids, and engaging regular home help are just some options to consider.
3. Reduce risks for loved ones with low vision
According to the Macular Disease Foundation Australia, people with low vision are at double the risk of a fall. Fortunately, you can lower this risk by:
- keeping walkways free of clutter and tripping hazards,
- keeping furniture or household items in the same spot. Keep things familiar and predictable for your loved one,
- making sure all rooms and doorways have adequate lighting,
- keeping hallway lights on or using nightlights to help with night-time toilet visits.
4. Make sure they can find commonly used items
While it may seem obvious, putting some extra thought into where regularly used items are located can make a big difference.
Some ideas include:
- Does your loved one have an easily accessible light switch and phone next to their bed?
- If they’re using a commode, do they have handles or stable furniture between it and their bed to lean on?
- When they’re sitting in their favourite chair, put the remote control, or reading material within reach.
5. Make it easier for them to attend to personal needs
Allowing as much dignity as possible for the person you care for, while keeping them safe, is a difficult balance. Wet bathroom floors and tight toilet spaces are common places for falls and serious injuries so it’s important to try to prevent them if possible.
Some ideas to consider:
- Toileting on a regular schedule to minimise rushing or accidents.
- Using incontinence pads for increased independence, hygiene, and dignity.
- Choosing clothes that are easy to remove and to put back on e.g. elastic waistbands on pants or buttoned or zippered tops.
- Installing handles and non-slip flooring in the toilet, bathroom, and shower spaces.
- Using a shower seat.
If personal care is getting difficult, it could be time to consider professional help. There are many home care options to help extend independent living for as long as possible, and to support family members as their loved one’s needs change.
If you’d like to find out more about the types of services available to you and how we can help, please contact us on 1300 787 581 or complete our questionnaire.