Falls prevention and older adults

October 7, 2015

Falls and their devastating effects are part of many elderly Australians lives. Each year a third of all Australians over 65 experience the effects of falls, and in the Northern Territory falls are the most common cause of injury hospitilisation (Glover & Skov 2010). Unfortunately falls can result in severe injury, reduced mobility, reduced confidence and the inability to perform desired activities.

People fall for many different reasons but loss of balance is a common cause. This may be due to muscle weakness, joint stiffness, vertigo, fatigue or the   side-effects of medication.

Things to look out for that may indicate a higher risk of falling include:

  • A previous fall in the last 6 months
  • Medications such as sleeping tablets, antidepressants or tranquilizers
  • Reduced level of exercise
  • Difficulty standing up from a chair
  • Poor balance
  • Foot pain, swelling and/or deformity of feet
  • Difficulties with vision
  • Health conditions such as problems with blood pressure or circulation, a stroke, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dizziness, difficulty going to the toilet, incontinence or ‘funny turns’.
  • Recent weight loss without trying
  • Reduced diet due to reduced appetite

However, there is good news!!!

Research shows that falls can be prevented by retraining balance, improving muscle strength, endurance and flexibility (Gillespie & Gillespie 2009).

Physiotherapy can assist in preventing falls as well as helping people regain their confidence returning to their desired activities by:

  • Completing individual falls risk assessments.
  • Providing individually tailored strength, endurance, and balance exercise programs.
  • Providing education about falls risks, safe ways of moving around the home and the community.
  • Conducting group balance and strength exercise classes.
  • Helping people to gain confidence in doing the things they enjoy.

There are many other important things people can do to reduce the risk of falls in their lives such as:

  • Wearing suitable footwear
  • Ensuring good lighting
  • Minimizing clutter
  • Getting a bit of sunlight
  • Talking with their GP and pharmacist about reviewing medications.
  • Talking with occupational therapists about ways of modifying their houses to make them more falls friendly.