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Falls

Falls Awareness Week is taking place week commencing 24 February 2020

Falls Tea and chat in garden

Falls are not an inevitable part of growing older. Falls prevention and reducing your risk of a fall is everybody's business, so please make it yours today.

Talk about it 

Pride often comes before a fall.

Save the date

Falls Awareness Week is taking place week commencing 24 February 2020. For the third year running we’re teaming up with our colleagues at Care & Repair Cymru and Age Connects Wales to raise the profile of falls amongst our older population.

Our key ambition is to dispel this long engrained myth that falls are an inevitable part of ageing and to raise awareness of the risk factors and their many solutions to limit and reduce the risk of a fall.

The campaign has the full support of Local Health Boards, Community Pharmacy Wales, Public Health Wales and the National Task Force for Falls Prevention in Wales and forms part of the Taskforce wider Steady on … Stay SAFE campaign.

We ask that during this week you take the time to reflect on your own behaviour and how this may contribute to your risk of a fall. There will be a list of potential risk factors included in our Take Action Today table for you to consider along with some simple guidance on what action you can take to reduce your risk. Many of the actions are relatively simple such as make an appointment with your optician for an eye examination and sight test.

Subtle changes in your vision as you age can contribute to how you move and perceive potential trip hazards in your home and built-up environment.

There's some useful posters and flyers to download to use during Falls Awareness Week at the bottom of this page.

In the meantime, here are a few of our top tips to give a flavour of how a few simple tweaks to your behaviour can reduce your risk of a fall:

Keep Active

Being too sedentary and sitting for too long could lead to muscle weakness of lower limbs which can impact on both your strength and balance and can contribute to an increased risk of a fall.

To keep those muscles working; it’s important for you to move often. Age Cymru offers volunteer led classes of gentle exercise across various locations in Wales. These can be tailored to your ability and can be done seated or standing; LIFT (Low Impact Functional Training) and Tai Chi . To find out if there’s a class in your area, contact our Physical Activity Team .

Keep Warm

Cold weather can pose a risk for falling as well as the potential for other more serious health concerns particularly if you have an existing chronic health condition. Regular movement is a great way of regulating heat, but keeping your home warm is also beneficial. The temperature in your home can impact on how you move and how well your muscles work. Age Cymru has produced a room thermometer card to raise awareness of a safe and stable temperature for your home, so make sure you know the magic numbers.

  • 21°C/70°F is the ideal temperature for your living room.
  • 18°C/65°F is the ideal temperature for your bedroom.
  • The rest of the house should be heated to at least 18°C/65°F.

For a free room thermometer and our winter health guide Winter Wrapped Up contact us.

Manage your medication 

We all respond differently to medication, some of us will experience side effects, such as dizziness, changes to our blood pressure, salt and hydration levels. Feeling faint or unsteady could lead to a fall. Speak to your pharmacist if you experience any symptoms that are unusual to you. The answer could be simple – a change to dosages or a change to how and when you take your medication – medication usage. Taking more than one medication could mean that these symptoms become worse. Before you make any changes you must speak to your local pharmacist and request a clinical review with your GP.

Look after your feet

It’s one pair you get. Long toe nails, dry cracked skin, corns, calluses and swellings can have a major impact on how you move and how steady you are on our feet. Keeping your feet in check, and toe nails trimmed gives added comfort and safety to your movement.
Our partners across Wales offer a toenail cutting service so find out if there’s one available in your area

Get your eyesight checked

Your vision plays an important role in your sense of balance and movement, so it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly, at least every two years. The good news is that if you're 60 or over, you can have a free NHS eye sight test as often as you need one. This is normally every 2 years, but may be more often in certain circumstances. Contact your optician for your next eye examination.

Nutrition and hydration

What you eat and drink can affect you in many ways – your blood pressure for one. Poor nutrition and dehydration can lead to low blood pressure which can leave you feeling weak, faint and dizzy. It’s important to drink plenty and try to eat a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein. Speak to a pharmacist before taking any dietary supplements.

Speak to your GP

NICE guidance states that if you are aged 65+ your healthcare professional should be routinely asking about falls, if you have fallen this could mean that you’re twice as likely to fall again. This year we've reached out to our healthcare professionals and are asking them to take 2 minutes to speak with you about your risk of a fall. Prevent a fall - Take action today Atal cwympiad - Gweithredwch heddiw is a conversation prompt for health professionals and is supported by a table of actions Take action today Gweithredwch heddiw

Why talk about falls?

It's a common misconception that falling is seen as an inevitable part of ageing, something to accept, something to fear and something to keep quiet about, but having a conversation can help to dispel this myth and guide you towards answers, solutions, freedom and independence.

So 'Let's talk about falls' - keep your conversations going. You can help to de-stigmatise falls, by talking openly about falls and putting your pride aside, you can help keep yourself and others independent, safe and well. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say!

There are many organisations and services that can support you with reducing your risk of a fall. Talking about even the ‘little’ falls - the 'just a stumble' that didn’t cause you a great deal of pain but more embarrassment - they're important too. 

There's an underlying myth that falls are an inevitable part of growing older. The truth may surprise you. There are many things that, as you age could potentially increase your risk of a fall such as, changes to your eyesight, hearing, foot health (to name but a few), however your risk of a fall will decrease with some small and simple actions from yourself.

This page is simply about lifestyle choices to help you age well, after all, quality of life, living well and independently is something that we all strive for, all of which add to the prevention of falls. It's what we already know and have known for years. 

Our publication Avoiding slips, trips and falls is widely used by Health Boards across Wales.

The booklet is split into two sections. The first section gives tips and advice on how to reduce the risk of falling at home, talking you through your home a room at a time. As many as 6/10 falls happen in the home, we want you to feel safe, comfortable and confident in your home, after all your home should be your castle and not your prison.

The second section is a self assessment form asking you about your general health and wellbeing. This will help you think about simple activities and interventions which can help you maintain your independence and reduce your risk of falling. Knowing the risk factors for falling puts you in a strong position to reduce your risk of a fall as there is often a simple solution.

Exercise - Strength and balance 

Starting at 30 years of age, our muscles can lose up to 8% of their strength each decade, by the time we reach 80 years of age we can potentially lose as much as 40% of our muscle strength. This is made worse by being too sedentary, sitting for too long could lead to muscle weakness and wastage of lower limbs and contribute to you being at an increased risk of having a fall. As the saying goes, ‘use it or lose it’. So get active during the day to keep those muscles working.

Exercises can and should be adapted to your capabilities and many exercises can be done in a seated or standing position. NHS Choices has some great variations. 

If you can, take up a balance training class that includes exercises to strengthen the muscles of your legs and body this will keep you strong and staying steady on your feet.

Exercise doesn’t have to be something you dread. It’s not about donning the Lycra and entering into a costly contract for membership with your local gym. Make it something to look forward to and do something you enjoy. Exercise shouldn’t feel like physical punishment but it should leave you feeling accomplished, alive and relaxed, both physically and mentally. It's also a great way of connecting with others and forming new friendships. It could open a whole new world of possibilities. 

Exercise with caution: If you are living with a chronic condition, have, or are recovering from an injury, operation, or medical procedure, taking multiple forms of medication, then seek advice from your clinical medical professional/healthcare professional before starting a new type of exercise or routine.

Don't let yourself run on empty - Check your fuel tank!

If you think of yourself as a car, your muscles as a fuel tank and exercise as 'fuel' ... you can't get from A to B without fuel in your tank! So, to reach your desired destination, you must top up your tank. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board have produced this ‘Falls prevention fuel tank: when did you last check yours?’ video with funding from Public Health Wales and Cardiff & Vale Health Charity. 

Welsh and subtitled versions are also available on the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board You Tube Channel

The video also highlights other factors which can contribute to falls and explains how you can reduce falls. ‘Reduce Falls’ is also available as a poster

 

6 simple exercises widely used by physiotherapists to keep you mobile and independent as you age.

Video: 6 Simple Exercises from The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy

If you'd like to keep these exercises handy then you can download a copy in English or Welsh

Timed up and go 

The timed up and go is a test of functional mobility and balance. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has created a short video demonstrating the timed up and go test, which can simply and quickly assess whether you're at an increased risk of falling.

You and your medication

Medication can have a huge impact on how you feel, your health and overall wellbeing so its important to be aware of what feels right for you and play an active role in your medication treatment. 

  1. Pharmacists are the medicines experts in the family of healthcare professionals. You can ask your local pharmacist for a free NHS medicine check up, sometimes called Medicines Use Review ‘MUR’. Your pharmacist will be able to talk with you about your medication and how best to take them.

You should speak to your pharmacist before you buy any over the counter medication, herbal remedies and/or dietary supplements as these may affect the way your prescribed medication works for you.

Keep hydrated and eatwell

We all need water to keep us well. Water makes up around 65% of our body weight. We need water to maintain our physical and mental functions, carry nutrients and oxygen around our body to our muscles and keep our joints lubricated to make movement easier.You may like to use the Eatwell Guide to help you get a balance of healthier and more sustainable food. The Eatwell guide shows how much of what you eat overall (over the course of each day) should come from each food group.

Healthy Living

Go outside

'D’ during daylight - Try and go outdoors each day during daylight hours, particularly if there is sunshine, whether this is a stroll around your garden, neighbouring streets or in a local green space. Spending too long indoors can contribute to vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight exposure. Many of us will be deficient in Vitamin D, particularly during the winter months.

Adults and children over the age of one should have 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D every day. This means that some people may want to consider taking a supplement. The advice is based on recommendations from the government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) following its review of the evidence on vitamin D and health.

If you're taking mediation, prescribed or over the counter, we recommend you speak to your local pharmacist before taking any supplements.

Keeping warm

Keeping warm can keep you well. The temperature of your home can impact your mobility and how well your muscles function.

We've produced a room thermometer card as part of our Spread the Warmth  campaign to help you stay aware of the temperature in your home. Knowing the magic numbers that keep you warm, safe and well can help reduce muscle strain and injury.

  • 21°C/70°F is the ideal temperature for your living room.
  • 18°C/65°F is the ideal temperature for your bedroom.
  • The rest of the house should be heated to at least 18°C / 65°F

Regular movement is a great way of regulating your body heat. Staying sat in a sedentary state for too long means cold muscles, poor circulation and muscle weakness.

A drop in temperature in your home, can contribute to worsening of a health condition which could increase your risk of a fall.

For more information on how temperature can affect your health visit our 'Spread the warmth' pages.

How to reduce your risk of falling


A safe environment

A home safety check can be carried out by our HandyVan service, which can help with small household repairs, minor adaptations and odd jobs that will improve your quality of life to help you live independently and safely in your home. We can fit grab rails, stair rails, replace light bulbs and fit motion sensor night lights, each of these can help you move around your home safely and with ease.

We were contacted recently by Mrs Hughes with this lovely feedback:

"Just to thank Sean for doing a great job putting up the grab rail. My husband is so grateful as its made such a difference to him getting up and down the stairs. Diolch"

For more information, please visit our HandyVan page.

Falls Awareness Week posters and flyers

Please feel free to download and display the posters and flyers in your workplace, clubs etc and help us spread the message that falls are not an inevitable part of growing older.

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