Preventing falls at home
There are ways you can reduce your risk of having a fall, including making simple changes to your home and doing exercises to improve your strength and balance.
If you have fallen in the past, making changes to reduce your chances of having a fall can also help you overcome any fear of falling.
Tips to prevent you from falling
- immediately mop up spillages
- keep your home free of clutter, obstacles, trailing wires and frayed carpet, particularly around stairs
- use non-slip mats and rugs for better surface grip, including by your bath or shower
- install handrails for extra support if needed
- make sure all rooms, passages and staircases are well lit, especially around the stairs and landing
- organise your home so that climbing, stretching and bending are kept to a minimum, and to avoid bumping into things
- get help to do things you're unable to do safely on your own, including lifting heavy items
- avoid walking on slippery floors in socks or tights
- avoid wearing loose-fitting, trailing clothes that might trip you up
- wear well-fitting shoes or slippers that are in good condition and support the ankle
- take care of your feet by trimming your toenails regularly and seeing a GP or chiropodist about any foot problems
- have regular health and eye tests
- eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of calcium to keep your bones strong
- take your time, whatever you are doing.
Strength and balance training
Doing regular exercises can improve your strength and balance, and reduce your risk of having a fall. This can take the form of simple activities such as walking and dancing, or specialist training programmes.
There's also evidence that taking part in regular tai chi sessions can reduce the risk of falls. Some organisations deliver tai chi residents for residents. Details can be found in the Community Directory.
If you're taking long-term medication, your GP should review your medicines at least once a year to make sure they're still right for you. This is particularly important if you're taking four or more medicines a day.
Your GP may recommend alternative medication or lower doses if they feel the side effects increase your chances of having a fall. In some cases, it may be possible for the medication to be stopped.
Contact your GP if you have not had your medication reviewed for more than a year, or if you're concerned that the medicines you or a relative are taking may increase the risk of falling.
Make an appointment to have a sight test if you're concerned that poor vision (even when wearing glasses) is increasing your risk of having a fall.
Drinking alcohol can lead to loss of co-ordination and exaggerate the effects of some medicines. This can significantly increase the risk of a fall, particularly in older people.
Avoiding alcohol or reducing the amount you drink can reduce your risk of having a fall.
Postural hypotension is a sudden drop in blood pressure that can happen when you stand up after sitting or lying down. The act of standing up reduces the blood supply to your brain and may cause symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, unsteadiness, blurred vision, weakness and sometimes blackouts. Postural hypotension increases your risk of falling and can adversely affect your quality of life.
Postural hypotension can be caused by:
- Not drinking enough fluids or being dehydrated
- Certain medications
- Prolonged bed rest
- Heart conditions
- Damage to the nervous system e.g. Parkinson’s disease, diabetes
- Overheating or warm environments
To manage or reduce the symptoms of postural hypotension:
- Take care when getting up, particularly in the morning
- Avoid standing up quickly
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time
- Avoid very hot baths and showers
- Avoid alcohol
- Eat little and often – avoid large meals
- Ensure you are drinking an adequate amount of fluid
- First thing in the morning, sit on the edge of your bed and drink a glass of water before you stand up.
What else you can do to prevent falls
If you think you need equipment such as a walking stick, rails or a bath seat to make your home safer, or help you in the event of a fall. See the page on living independently at home for more information.
Age UK East London provide a Handyperson service that carries out accident prevention checks in your home. They also do minor jobs in your home to keep you independent, such as putting up handrails or securing loose rugs.
Tel: 020 89817124
What to do if you have a fall
If you're not hurt and you feel strong enough to get up, don't get up quickly. Roll onto your hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed.
Hold on to the furniture with both hands to support yourself and, when you feel ready, slowly get up. Sit down and rest for a while before carrying on with your daily activities.
If you are hurt or unable to get up, try to get someone's attention by calling out for help, banging on the wall or floor, or using your Telecare pendant (if you have one). As you wait for help to arrive, try to reach something, such as a blanket or coat, to put over you and keep you warm. Particularly your legs and feet. Stay as comfortable as possible and try to change your position at least once every half an hour or so.
If you can reach a telephone, call 999 and ask for an ambulance. They will decide if they will need to send an ambulance, or they may refer you to the falls pick up service.
The Tower Hamlets falls pick up service
The falls pick up service offers a ‘non-injury falls lifting service’. The service aims to be with you within 30 minutes to an hour, and reduces the demand on emergency ambulances as well as reducing the waiting time and fear of not knowing when help will arrive.
On arrival, a trained nurse and therapist will decide whether it safe to pick you up from the floor using specialist equipment. After making you comfortable, they will do an assessment to see if further medical attention is required, or whether it is safe to leave you at home.
You will need to tell your GP that you have had a fall. They can check whether a health problem is causing you to fall and if it's likely to happen again. If it is, they may give you medication to improve your condition.
You should also consider telling someone such as your family, a close friend or a neighbour, that you have had a fall so that they can keep an eye on you and help you get any treatment you might need.