Preventing Falls for Elderly people

Preventing Falls for Elderly people

Friday 9th June 2023
Gemma B

Preventing Falls for Elderly People

Falls and fractures in older people are largely preventable. It is essential that people are proactive with managing falls risk to maintain health, wellbeing and independence.

What is a fall?

A fall is defined as an event which results in a person coming to rest, inadvertently, on the ground. It can happen to anyone however, as people get older, they are more likely to fall and injure themselves.

How common are falls?

  • One third of over 65s fall at least once a year
  • Half of over 80s fall at least once a year

Where do falls occur?

Falls can happen anywhere. However, more than half of them happen in the home. Keeping a falls diary can help track when and when falls or near misses are occurring.

What might a falls assessment look like?

  • A multifactorial falls risk assessment can significantly reduce falls. Anyone who has fallen or is at risk, should be offered an assessment.
  • Falls history and fear of falling
  • Observation of walking, flexibility, balance and strength
  • Bone density testing
  • Vision testing
  • Cognitive and neurology testing
  • Discussion around toileting and incontinence
  • Home environment and hazard identification
  • Heart exam
  • Medication review

What might a falls intervention look like?

  • Individualised strength, flexibility and balance training
  • Home hazard assessment and education
  • Review of vision
  • Modification of medication

What might Physiotherapy involve?

Strength, flexibility and balance training is recommended for those with a history of falls or at risk. The programme should be bespoke and monitored by a trained professional. As long as a programme is individualised, the training could be completed in a group setting or at home.

Discussions around falls proofing your home such as removing trip hazards, ensuring adequate lighting and advice on equipment.

Practicing practical skills such as crawling and getting on and off the floor as well as how to safely fall, can be helpful.

Other tips:

Dress for success. Clothes should be practical, shoes should be secure and clothes should not drag.

Carrying a charged mobile phone or installing a falls alarm means that you can summon help should you fall.

If you are furniture walking in your home, it is sensible to see an Occupational therapist or Physiotherapist about some practical steps going forward. Furniture is unsteady and moves so can lead to falls.

Reduce your alcohol consumption. As we age, fat replaces muscle. This results in a higher blood alcohol concentration. This increases unsteadiness and falls.

Don't rush. Take your time to scan an area for trip hazards before walking.

Take care of your feet. Seeing a chiropodist regularly can help prevent painful feet which can hamper mobility.

If you have problems with incontinence, speak with your Gp, often incontinence can be improved. Some people limit their fluid intake because they are fearful of incontinence, which may lead to dehydration. Also, rushing to the toilet, particularly in the middle of the night can be problematic.

It is recommended you have an eye sight test yearly. Vision is a large component of balance. Visual field disturbances, depth perception problems and decreased contrast sensitivity can all contribute to falls.

What are the next steps?

If you have a history of falls or are at risk for falls, talk with your doctor in the first instance.

Helpful resources:

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy - Guide to Staying Steady
The Public Health England Guide to Preventing Falls
NICE - Risk Assessment

See also our pages on older adults and dementia.

If you would like to know more about Estuary Physio Fall Prevention Services or speak to one of our clinicians, please contact us, or book an appointment using the button below.

Medical Review

The information on this page has been reviewed for accuracy by Barry Ford BSc MCSP, Physiotherapist