After reading through a systematic review of the literature concerning falls prevention conducted by the British Medical Journal there is definitely proof that falls prevention programs do work.
Exercise programmes designed to prevent falls in older adults also seem to prevent injuries caused by falls, including the most severe ones. Such programmes also reduce the rate of falls leading to medical care.
Source:The British Medical Journal
Fall Prevention Statistics
Injuries from a fall include fractures and breaks and as well as causing a lot of pain, can be a problem for the family and also cost society and the NHS a lot of money. The analysis started from a list of over 1500 different studies and was narrowed down to 17 relevant studies that included over 2,000 participants.
The best results from these include a reduction of 37% in all injurious falls, 43% for severe falls and a 61% reduction for a fall resulting in a fracture. These are remarkable results and just go to show that it is worth spending a bit of time in your old age making sure that you take care of yourself.
The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about as falls are the leading cause of death by an injury in those over 65 years of age.
Fall Prevention In The Elderly Checklist
It is quite common for the over 65’s to have a regular prescription of some kind. Make sure that your pharmacist and doctor regularly review your medications and check that any other supplements or over the counter treatments you take are compatible with the others you are taking. Some medicines affect your balance and co-ordination so you have to be thoroughly attentive to the other points on our checklist if this is your case to avoid other risks of falling. On the same point stay clear of drinking too much alcohol as that too is a high risk factor for falls.
Moderate weight-bearing exercise such as walking and swimming could assist with osteoporosis prevention. Having strong bones can help you to avoid fractures if you fall. Community exercise classes are available at your local leisure or community centre, and sometimes you can find the local Age Concern or other local charity offer series of exercise classes for free.
Some studies have suggested that exercises promoting balance and muscle strength, such as tai chi and yoga, could help lower the risk of falls happening. Source:telegraph.co.uk
Shoes and garments
Ensure that your footwear, for both outside the home and indoors, (for example slippers) are fitted properly and have plenty of grip on the soles.
Women that can’t find large enough shoes, perhaps because of oedema, could try a mans shoe, or for indoors the adjustable velcro type shoes are well recommended because of being able to fit most widths of foot.
Make sure that all clothing is of the right size and fit. Some people might still wear older bigger clothes from when they were younger and there is a potential trip hazard if they snag on door handles or if the trouser legs are now too long and slip underneath the feet.
Make sure that your eyesight is tested every year or if you have been having trouble with it.
Get an annual physical check up at the Health Centre as muscle strength declines with age and you need to be aware that fall risks would be increased from this. Blood pressure also needs to be checked regularly.
Mobility equipment to help with walking, like a cane or walker, must be measured to fit by a competent mobility products dealer or Occupational Therapist. The reason being that having a cane that is too low could be a fall hazard.
Reduce your threat of hip fracture by maintaining a diet with sufficient amounts of vitamin D and calcium – as the neck of femur area can be slightly strengthened in terms of bone density by supplementing with these.
The two main fall prevention programs in use in evidence based practice are the Otago programme or PSI (Postural Stability Instruction) Both involve at least 50 hours of “work” as to develop the strength and retrain the balance of a person is not an overnight process. They are generally structured to be a combination of community classes and home workouts. For more information and a link to literature on the subject see here.
For a great video on some introductory balance exercises for older people that they can do at home see the video below.
They look quite tricky for even younger people! Let us know if you do something that helps your leg strength and balance and other readers can learn from it. Drop a comment below to show our readers what works for you.