Falls are not an inevitable part of growing older
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.
Age Cymru's Healthy Ageing Team has three programmes of physical activity active across various locations in Wales, these are Nordic Walking - L.I.F.T (Low Impact Functional Training) and now Tai Chi. To find out if there are groups available in your area and suitable to your needs, interest and pocket contact our Physical Activity colleagues on 029 2043 1555.
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.
6 simple exercises widely used by physiotherapists to keep you mobile and independent as you age.
Talk about it
Pride often comes before a fall.
During Falls Awareness Week, 26 February 2018 – Sunday 4 March 2018 we teamed up with our friends and colleagues at Age Connects and Care & Repair Cymru to start the conversation. We asked you and professionals alike to talk about falls.
It's a common misconception that falling is seen as an inevtable 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 and a 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.
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. Speak to your GP or healthcare professional if you’ve had a fall, are worried about falling or have been feeling unsteady.
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. (Sarah to hyperlink to video)
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.
- 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.
'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 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.