In winter, the possibility of our senior loved ones falling increases, with longer periods spent within the home, icy and slippery conditions under foot in the garden and nights drawing in sooner, creating darker evenings. We all want to ensure our loved ones are safe and with this in mind, we caught up with Occupational Therapist, Jackie Cooper, to get her advice around reducing falls.
What can we do to reduce falls?
To help reduce the risk of falls, firstly you need to do a risk assessment of your loved ones surroundings. A risk assessment is an important part of falls prevention, it looks at their environment, mobility, cognition and also any medications that may cause side effects that can increase the possibility of falling. An Occupational Therapist can help with this, and if your loved one is receiving care this can be completed by your Care Manager.
When assessing their environment, it is important to note down any factors you feel might increase their risk of falling. Here are some helpful pointers to look out for:
- Reduce tripping hazards such as clutter/rugs/wires.
- Ensure spillages are cleaned up straight away.
- Look at the furniture, is it appropriate for your loved ones needs, is it the right height, does it give the right level of support?
- Are their steps/slopes or changes in flooring? Would extra grab rails provide extra support?
- Consider the risk on stairs, would an additional rail help?
- Lighting – is it bright enough and in the right place?
- Clothing – watch out for long skirts, dangling dressing gown cords etc.
- Ensure your loved ones footwear is well fitting and ideally not too high of a heel or backless.
It is important for anyone who has reduced mobility or an increase in falls to have an assessment completed by a physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist to review walking aids or transfer aids, in order to ensure that they have the right equipment and exercises to help reduce the risk of further falls. Some areas have a Falls Team who specialise in supporting clients who fall. It’s worth finding out if there is one in your area. They sometimes have specialist exercise groups your loved one may be able to attend.
Exercise is probably one of the most important aspects of falls prevention. The benefits of exercise include:
- Increased strength and balance
- Good for circulation and respiration
- Improved well-being and self confidence
- Reduced anxiety
- Giving routine to the day
- Providing an outlet for excess energy
Adults aged 65 and over should:
- Aim to be physically active every day. Any activity is better than none. The more you do the better, even if it’s just light activity
- Do activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least 2 days a week
- Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity if you are already active, or a combination of both
- Reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity
- If you’ve fallen or are worried about falling, doing exercises to improve your strength, balance and flexibility will help make you stronger and feel more confident on your feet. Speak to your GP if you have any concerns about exercising
About Jackie Cooper, Occupational Therapist
Prior to joining The Good Care Group, Jackie worked for the NHS for nearly 25 years as an Occupational Therapist. She has predominantly worked with older people with mental health problems and in particular with those with dementia. She also has experience in working with people with neurological conditions. She works closely with our care teams and clients to promote independence and reablement, ensuring our clients are able to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.