Preventing Falls by Dr John Deady

March 31, 2023

Nearly 1 in 3 older Australians have experienced a fall in the past 12 months. Of these, 1 in 5 required hospitalisation.

Most elderly people fall in and around their home. Injuries as a result of falls, such as a broken leg or hip, can lead to major life changes.

Risk factors

Your chances of falling increase if you’ve had a fall in the past six months. Other risk factors include:

  • Home hazards such as loose shoes, slippery tiles, steps, rugs on the floor and other trip hazards.
  • Sensory and balance problems including muscle weakness, low vision or blindness.
  • Medication (side effects) and changes in medication.
  • Chronic diseases including Parkinson’s, dementia, hypotension (low blood pressure), diabetes, arthritis, stroke, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.
  • Short term illness (such as colds or flu or other infection) or recovery post-surgery.
Reduce your risk of falls

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent falls and minimise injuries including:

  • Eating healthy and nutritious food and drinking enough fluids.
  • Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, with regular resistance (strengthening) and balance exercises.
  • Taking medication only as prescribed and discus any side effects with your doctor.
  • Annual medication review with your doctor especially if taking multiple medications. There is an exponential increase in falls in those taking 5 or more medications.
  • Wearing comfortable, firm-fitting, flat shoes with fastenings and rubber soles that grip.
  • Hazard proofing your home – removing trip hazards like loose rugs.
  • Ensuring adequate lighting, especially at night.
  • If applicable, always using your walking aid.
  • Installing grab rails in the bathroom.
  • Keeping pathways around your home clean and in good repair.
  • If reliant on glasses, ensure at least annual review with your optometrist to make sure your prescription is correct.
  • Marking the edge of steps so they’re easier to see.
How your GP can help

If you’ve had a fall, or, if you or someone you care for is at risk of falling, make an appointment to discuss this with your GP. They can provide tailored advice about how to prevent falls, particularly if you have one or more of the chronic health conditions mentioned above. Your GP can review your medications and may refer you to other health professionals such as rehabilitation specialists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and occupational therapists for help.

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