Anyone can have a fall, but older people are more vulnerable and likely to fall, especially if they have a long-term health condition – the risk of falling is dramatically increased by the effect of ageing e.g. frailty, medication and multiple illnesses. Falls are the number one reason older people are taken into A&E (Age UK, 2019) and a result of a fall, people may lose their confidence, independence or perhaps go into long term care.
Falvey, Mangione & Stevens-Lapsley (2015) state that hospitalised older people are 61 times more likely to develop difficulty in active daily living than those who are not hospitalised. Consequently, falls cost the NHS over £2bn and over 4million bed days per year*.
There are many ways in which a fall can be prevented at home, reducing the likelihood of a hospital A&E admission. Below, we have put together our top tips to ensure your client remains safe within their own home:
Remove hazards from your clients home.
The easiest method for preventing a trip of a fall is to keep floors free from clutter such as piles of newspapers, electrical/ phone cords etc. Move coffee tables, plant stands or any other furniture from high-traffic areas Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip resistant backing – or recommend that they remove loose rugs from their home completely Rearrange the shelves – store food, dishes, clothing, toiletries etc. within easy reach. Reaching for items on high shelves can be dangerous if a senior with mobility issues tries to climb or reach to grab them. Use non-slip mats in your shower or bathtub, or use a bath seat / bath board to allow your client to sit whilst showering Fix loose carpet or repair loose floorboards Use assistive devices.
Install handrails or grab bars.
These safety devices are crucial for going up and downstairs, getting on and off the toilet, stepping in and out of the bathtub, or outside near to front or back doors. A raised toilet seat or one with arms A sturdy, non-slip stool or chair for the shower
Avoid wearing loose clothing.
Your clients want to feel comfortable at home, but baggy clothing can sometimes increase the likelihood of a fall. Encourage your client to opt for better fitting and properly hemmed clothing that doesn’t bunch up or drag on the ground.
Light up your living space.
Inadequate lighting is another major hazard. To create a home that’s more suitable for the elderly, install brighter light bulbs where needed, particularly near to staircases, hallways and outdoor lighting. Add night lights in bedrooms and bathrooms for better visibility during the night. Have a torch stored in a convenient place in case of a power cut
Physical activity can go a long way towards fall prevention. With their Doctor’s OK, consider activities such as walking, water workouts or tai chi. For something a little less strenuous, try simple leg and arm raises. If your client avoids physical activity because they are afraid it will make a fall more likely, advise them to tell their Doctor. Their Doctor may recommend a carefully monitored exercise programme or refer them to a physiotherapist.
Make sure your client can see clearly.
Ensure your client always wears glasses if they need them, but remind them to remove reading glasses before they walk Ensure they have their eyes checked regularly.
Be aware of the possible side effects of your clients medication.
Side effects of some medication can increase the risk of falls. Taking several different medicines each day can increase the risk and may cause weakness or dizzy spells. Always read the information about side effects. Advise your client to speak with their pharmacist or doctor about possible side effects Remind them to ask for a review of their medicines if they’re unsure about anything.
Advise your client to seek help when they need it.
If your client feels stronger and more capable in the morning, but tired and weaker in the evening, it may be worthwhile organising home care assistants to visit the client during evening hours to prepare them for bed.
For clients who feel unable to stand during evenings, a transfer aid such as the ReTurn7500i will enable a sit-to-stand or a stand-to-sit. The right care and support when your client needs it can help them to live more safely and maintain the individual’s independence. Don’t leave it too late to ask for help and advice. You can find out more about preventing falls from the NHS website.
The transition from sitting to standing often incurs the risk of a fall and yet whilst this task carries risk, a fall is not inevitable. Following an assessment, our RoSPA Moving & Handling (Level 4) Safe Moving & Handling team can provide support, patient handling equipment and specialist seating solutions which work for both the client and the carer.
Public Health England 2019.