We are all at risk of having a fall. Sometimes it is obvious why we have fallen for example we may have slipped on ice or tripped over something. At other times we are left feeling frustrated as to why we landed on the ground and fearful that it will happen again.
Older people are much more at risk of falling however this should not just be put down to old age and all falls should be investigated as to their cause and plans made to minimise the risk of it happening again. Advice is available on falls prevention [73kb] and what to do if you have had a fall [122kb].
There are many things that can cause a fall, some of these are listed below with advice on how to minimise these risks:
Wearing shoes or slippers that do not fit properly cause many falls. It is best to wear shoes as much as possible inside and outside as they offer more support than slippers. Footwear should fit securely but should not rub. Velcro straps can be good, especially if your feet tend to swell and they can be adjusted through the day. Heels, backless shoes and ballet pumps should be avoided.
It is important to keep your toenails at a good length, filing them before a bath or shower is the best option.
If you feel you need advice regarding your foot health you can see a podiatrist.
It is important to get regular eye tests every year. Many opticians will now come to your house so no need to stop getting them checked if you are unable to get out.
It is important to keep your glasses clean, it is a good idea to get into the habit of cleaning your glasses every time you clean your face.
You may need to have lights on to help you see clearly around the house this is especially important at night, many people leave the hall or bathroom light on if they are getting up during the night.
Some medications can increase our chances of falling, if you think a medication may be to blame for your falls discuss this with your GP or pharmacist. It is important you do not stop any medications you are prescribed without discussing this with your GP.
Use of a walking aid can help ease pain in our legs, help steady us if we have poor balance and give us more confidence. It is important to keep as active as possible and use of a walking aid might allow you to walk further or walk more safely.
Many people buy their own walking aids, walking sticks are also available via the self assessment OT booklet. Other walking aids can be prescribed by health or social policy staff.
It is important to check for wear and tear of your walking aid, especially the rubber ferrule at the bottom. If you received your walking aid from community equipment stores contact them directly if it is damaged in any way.
Many different pieces of equipment can be provided to help maintain independence in and around your home. More information can be found on our Occupational Therapy pages.
Postural hypotension (dizziness when standing up)
From time to time we all suffer from dizziness if we get up too quickly. This can sometimes become a bigger problem and happen frequently causing us to feel unsteady or fall if we get up after sitting or lying for a while.
If you do get dizzy on first getting up sitting on the edge of your bed for a few minutes before you stand up can help. It is important that this is checked to see if we are suffering from postural hypotension, a drop in blood pressure on standing. A nurse or GP can check for this by getting you to lie flat for 5 minutes and checking your blood pressure then checking it again when you stand up to see if there is any difference between the readings.
What to do if you do fall
If you do fall it is important to stay calm, work out if you are injured and decide how you are going to get up off the floor. If you feel you have an injury that requires immediate assistance call 999 for an ambulance.
If you are uninjured there are 2 main plans to use. The up and about plan lets you take your time to get off the floor yourself using sturdy furniture and perhaps someone can help talk you through this. The rest and wait plan keeps you safe until someone can come and assist you from the floor.
In West Lothian there is a service which will come and assist you off the floor. They can be contacted by pressing your home safety service alarm. They have special equipment to assist you off the floor is this is required, will make sure that you are feeling ok after the fall and organise a falls and bone health assessment for you if you wish.
No matter what plan you use you should always report the fall to your GP.
If you feel you or someone you look after are at risk of falling or have suffered a fall you should discuss this with your GP or any health or social care staff. Staff may use the Falls and bone health assessment form [146kb] to help work out why you are falling and it may be helpful for you to fill this out before meeting with them.
It is important that we keep as active as possible to reduce the chance of us falling. All types of activity are good and it doesn't always require a visit to the gym. House work, cleaning the car and walking are all good. Anything that challenges our balance is especially good for falls prevention eg tai chi, dancing.
There are many different activities available in West Lothian for all ages. The aging well coordinator organised activities specifically for those over 50 years.