Avoiding a fall
Falling as we get older is quite common, and although most falls don't cause serious injury they can leave us feeling quite distressed. The good news is there are lots of things you can do to stay steady on your feet.
As the leaves start to fall, make sure you don't
During the autumn and winter months the risk of falling increases. It's worth having a think about how you can reduce your risk.
What can I do to prevent a fall?
Some health conditions, medications and footwear can affect your ability to stay steady on your feet. You might not notice your health changing as it can happen gradually, so it's important to have regular checkups so any issues can be picked up before they cause a fall.
As we get older, our muscle strength and balance reduces, which can lead to a fall. Exercises designed to improve muscle strength can reduce your risk of a fall by improving your posture, coordination and balance.
It’s important to keep an eye on your appetite and try and make sure you’re eating well. It's always better to eat something, even if it's small snacks throughout the day instead of 3 main meals. Getting enough energy is important in keeping up strength and preventing falls.
As well as eating well, you should make sure you’re drinking plenty. If you don’t drink enough it’s likely that you’ll start to feel light-headed which will increase your risk of a fall. Try to drink about six to eight glasses of fluid a day.
Take care of your eyes
Our eyesight changes as we age and can lead to a trip or loss of balance. Get your eyes and glasses checked regularly – at least every 2 years. This will detect any vision problems early, before they cause you to lose your balance and coordination.
Check for hearing problems
As you get older you might find your hearing isn't as great as it used to be. Talk to your doctor as soon as you think your hearing has deteriorated, as a problem with your ears can severely affect your balance. The problem may be something easily treated, such as a build-up of ear wax or an ear infection, or it may be that you need a hearing aid.
Combined sight and hearing problems can make it difficult to maintain your balance.
Tell you doctor if your vision or hearing difficulties, or both, are affecting your day-to-day life. They will arrange an assessment, and will explain the help available to make daily tasks easier.
Manage your medicines
Certain medications can make you feel faint or dizzy and affect your balance. Let your doctor know if you experience side effects like these after taking any medication – they may need to check the dose or look at alternatives.
Support your bone health
Keep your bones healthy and strong by eating calcium-rich foods, getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and doing some weight-bearing exercises.
If you have weaker bones, they're more likely to break if you fall. So stronger bones could make any injury you have much less serious.
Choose the right shoes
Problems with your feet or shoes can affect your balance and increase your risk of tripping or falling. Talk to your doctor about any foot issues.
These footwear tips can help you feel more confident on your feet:
- Make sure your shoes fit well and don’t have a tendency to slip off.
- Well-cushioned shoes offer comfort and support.
- Avoid sandals with little support and shoes with high heels.
- Wear slippers that have a good grip and that fasten and stay on properly.
- Always wear shoes or slippers, and never walk indoors in bare feet, socks or tights.
When you have a face covering on it's worth being extra careful when moving about as it can make it harder to see. Be sure to slow down to reduce your risk of falling.
How do I make my home fall-proof?
Many slips, trips and falls happen in or around the home. Keeping an eye out for potential hazards can make your home a safer place. Making some simple changes around your home can make a real difference. Here are our 3 top tips:
- Rugs and mats at the top or bottom of the stairs are a trip hazard and can easily lead to a fall, so it's a good idea to move them out of the way.
- Install a night light near the bed to make sure if you wake up in the night you can see where you're going. You can install a motion-activated light that comes on as needed.
- Remove trip hazards like trailing wires, clutter and rugs. Also, try and avoid glass furniture as it can be harder to see and may cause a stumble.
See our page on Adapting your home for more tips.
What can I do if I'm worried about a fall?
If you’ve had a fall or you feel your balance isn’t as good as it was, it’s natural to feel worried about falling. This can become a problem if it’s causing you to avoid certain activities, such as exercise, or stopping you leaving your home.
To feel more confident and in control, think and plan ahead by discussing your risk of falling with your doctor and consider if you need to install a personal alarm in the home.
Talk to your doctor
Your doctor may perform a falls risk assessment which will work out what’s making you more likely to fall. They can also draw up an action plan to reduce your risk of falling.
Personal alarms allow you to call for help, for example, if you’re unwell or have a fall and can’t reach a telephone. Pressing a button on a pendant or wristband you wear all the time will alert a 24-hour response centre. The staff at the centre will then call out the best person to help you – a neighbour, relative or friend, or emergency services.
A telecare system can automatically alert staff at a response centre if you need help, such as if you’ve fallen. For example, a bed or chair sensor can detect if you’ve got up but haven’t returned in a set time, and it will automatically send an alert to a carer or emergency service.
What should I do next?
- Consider whether you need to make any lifestyle changes.
- Book an eye or hearing test if you’ve not had one recently.
- Look for and fix trip hazards in and around your home.
- Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your risk of falling.
- Make a falls plan so you know who you’ll call and how you will get help if you fall.
We're here to help
We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.