So many changes creep up on us as we age. 

We become tired, dehydrated, and can’t react as quickly to things like a change in floor surface, a rug, a step we didn’t notice, or wet or uneven floors.

Extra medications often mean side effects such as balance disturbance. Our vision is worse at night. 

Add in an illness like a urinary tract infection, a cold, an infected ulcer or scratch, and the risk of falling worsens even more

 

1. Change Your Shoes

Those shoes you love so much may not fit as well as they used to. Wear shoes that are comfortable and fit well – wide enough in the toe area so your toes don’t scrunch up, but can stretch as needed. Low or no heels, and slip-resistant soles. No socks or slippers inside (too slippery)

 

2. Don’t get dressed in a hurry

One lady was going shopping but thought she would just take her dog for a quick walk before she did. She didn’t bother to change into her shoes  and fell in the park while wearing her house slippers.

Make sure your dressing gown doesn’t scrape along the floor and catch on things. Same with all your clothes and bottoms of trouser legs.

3. Protect Yourself

When you are outside, wear sunglasses and a hat to reduce sun glare. 

Consider wearing hip protectors or limb protectors to help prevent hip fracture and skin tears in the event of a fall.

 

4. Eat lots of protein.

This keeps your  muscles strong. Add Sustagen and skim milk powder to your diet. This is not a time to lose lots of weight – if you do, you will just lose muscle mass.

If you are losing your appetite eat little and often. Anything, to stimulate your appetite. All your favourites are good.

 

5. Exercise for balance and strength.

Do a proper exercise and balance plan with a trained physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.  They have special agility exercises, they can show you how to use a cane at the right height, or a frame.  

Ask your doctor about community groups and exercise groups. You can do hydrotherapy or walking sessions or gym work- take your pick.  Also, strengthen your inside muscles (pelvic floor) to improve your bladder control.

 

6. See your doctor.

At least once per year to check your vision,  weight, strength,  heart and blood pressure.  You especially need all your medications checked.

Tell your doctor exactly what you are taking- including anything you buy “extra” at your chemist or that friends recommend to you. Get them to check your diet and make sure your Vitamin D levels are enough for strong bones and muscles

7. See a podiatrist.

Trim your nails, moisturise your feet to prevent cracks. Sore feet lead to limping which means it is easier to fall.

Also cracked feet leads to infection, which also means you are more likely to fall.

8. Drink.

Dehydration is a major cause of low blood pressure which affects your ability to go from sitting to standing up without falling.

Dehydration is also a major cause of constipation which can lead to imbalance, or a urinary tract infection (an infection down there)

9.  Fix Your House

Keep your house clear, clean, and well lit. Ask an Occupational therapist to come and have a look and make suggestions. Keep your telephone in easy reach of the floor, for instance on a low table.  

in the bathroom use a bath mat with suction caps to the floor tiles really tight.  Keep the floors dry. Install grab rails (towel rails are NOT strong enough to use as grab rails). Use a shower chair.  It’s a luxury! 

Tape down all 4 edges of all rugs or remove them altogether. Remove any rugs with holes or worn areas as your toes will catch in these. Keep the hallways absolutely clear and well lit. 

You need good lighting at night along the hallway and into the bathroom.  If you need extra, use plug-in night lights. These can have movement sensors as well.  

Replace your light globes regularly so there are no surprises at night

 

10. Fix Your Garden

Clear away garden tools. Avoid using ladders. It is not worth breaking a hip just to reach something you could get someone else to find for you.

Sweep all paths. Fallen petals and leaves get slippery when wet. Use a leaf blower if you prefer. 

Paint a line along the leading edge of outside steps with reflective or white paint so they are easy to see. 

Repair broken, uneven or cracked paths, patios. Put lighting near any steps inside and outside your house. Make sure outside steps are well lit.

Make sure your house has smoke alarms in working order and a fire blanket or extinguisher that is easy to reach so you don’t have to run in an emergency.

 

What to do if you fall at home

  • Don’t panic – stay still for a few minutes and try to calm down.
  • Call for help if you can.
  • Decide whether you can get up yourself.

If you can get up by yourself

  • Roll over onto your stomach and try to get onto all fours, like a crawling position.
  • Crawl to a stable piece of furniture, like a lounge chair.
  • Use the piece of furniture to pull yourself up onto your knees.
  • Push up, using your strongest leg and arms, still firmly holding onto the furniture.
  • Sit down on the furniture. Catch your breath. Then think about what to do next.  Don’t hurry to get off the piece of furniture.
  • Dial triple zero (000) for emergency services or call your local doctor for help. They will check for injuries and  find out what caused the fall.

 

If you can’t get up by yourself

  • Try to crawl or drag yourself or roll to somewhere on carpet.
  • Find anything that can keep you warm, such as bedclothes, a towel or clothing, while you wait for help.
  • Use your personal alarm, if you have one.
  • If you don’t have a personal alarm, use an object that you can bang to make a loud noise, like a walking stick against the wall, to alert a neighbour.
  • Have a rest then try again to crawl or pull yourself to the telephone
  • If someone is nearby but can’t lift you up, ask them to bring a piece of furniture or a step ladder. Use each of the rungs to pull you a little bit higher as you get back up.
  • Dial triple zero (000) for emergency services or call your local doctor for help. They will check for injuries and find out what caused the fall.

Learn more things  you can do at home  here

Written by Dr Merran Cooper  MBBS BSc (Physiotherapy) Founder Touchstone Life Care, Pty Ltd