Don’t Fall For It!!

 

We need to talk about falls.

There are a lot of folks out there that think that falls are just an inevitable part of getting older.  After all it does cost us all £2.3 billion a year!!  It’s a big cause of hospital admissions.  But falls being inevitable is just not true.

It is correct that falls can rob many older people of their health, mobility, confidence and independence. If you are reading this as someone who has fallen recently, rest assured you are definitely not alone. One in three over 65’s and plenty of those in decent health, will have a fall this year. For a lot of those people, they get up, brush off their scrapes and carry on, but if you are over 80 this risk increases, and the impact can be more devastating to your quality of life.

 

So what can we do to help

By understanding what puts us at risk, we can take preventative action.  So this article is about understanding what some of those risk factors might be.

Having worked extensively in hospitals both on the wards and in rehabilitation, falling, and a fear of falling was an everyday hurdle to overcome for a vast number of the people I treated. This got me thinking about how Physiotherapists and other medical professionals can help, and one of the ways is good quality information for people!

Whilst the reasons for falls are multifactorial…and can heavily overlap I will be using this article to discuss with you some of the medical reasons that you may have had a ‘fall’ or be at risk of having a fall and the simple things that can be done to reduce your risk.

 

Strength and Balance

Firstly, as a Physiotherapist, I have to talk about muscle strength and balance.  This is a big topic on which I could talk about for hours.  As we age, we lose muscle mass, sometimes as much as 30% between the ages of 50 and 70!

Did you know that?

Let’s face it 50 is not old these days when people are living to over 100.

But everyone knows the old adage ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’.  So, if you continue to do regular physical activity 5 times per week for at least 30 minutes you can still increase your strength whatever your age which is fantastic news if you are older and have been led to believe you will not be able to get stronger as you get older.  So let’s put the myth to bed here and now.

And if you were to fall, imagine how much easier it is to get yourself back up again if you have the right amount of strength!

 

Balance

As we get older, our balance reaction times reduce and so do our reflexes.  This makes it harder to regain balance especially when you are moving quickly.  Once again there is good news for me to give you and that is, it is surprisingly easy to improve your balance with simple exercises but they must be the right exercises. 

 

Toilet Troubles

Moving on to a topic that people don’t always feel comfortable talking about – the toilet. Or more specifically frequent and urgent trips to the toilet, especially at night. Surveys have shown that a vast number of the most serious falls requiring hospitalisation happen at night, often when people are in a rush to go to the loo.

We can be embarrassed talking about toilet troubles, which means that people just put up with them. But… there may be something that can be done if you talk to your Doctor or Physiotherapist. Exercise or medication may be able to help.

Top Tip!

If you do wake in the night to use the toilet, try to sit for at least 30 seconds before standing to allow your blood pressure to stabilise before you move and this can reduce that dizzy feeling when you have just woken from a deep sleep.

 

Check Your Pills

This leads me nicely onto another problem typically facing the older population…all those pills you have to take!!

If you are on four or more drugs (which a lot of over 65’s will be), these medications can interact with each other and sometimes cause dizziness or sleepiness. Side effects are common and will affect people differently.  If you are concerned about the tablets you are taking, or the side effects they cause, then discussing with your GP is often the best course of action. There may be something else you can take, or another route to try. And all tablets should be regularly monitored anyway so make sure this happens.

 

How Well Can You See?

Another important yearly check is your eyesight. You eyesight may not be what it used to be.  There are a few different conditions that can affect the aging eye including cataracts, macular degeneration and general reduced sensitivity.

It may seem obvious, but if you cannot see trip hazards or see clearly to place your foot, that increases the risk of falls, especially at night.  Get your eyes checked yearly and ensure you wear appropriate eyewear to help keep you steady.

 

Night Time Tipple Anyone?

One final thing that I can’t leave out is alcohol! We all know too much alcohol can make you unsteady. But did you know that as we age our tolerance for alcohol reduces, so the same amount of alcohol you drank in your 20s or 30s can have a very different effect on you in your 70s, 80s or older. So please just remember this when you are sipping that night-time sherry!!

All the things I’ve spoken about are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to falls prevention but can start you thinking about the simple things that can make a big difference to your life.

And remember…. Don’t get uptight about being upright!!!

 

Beth Dolman
Balance & Falls Specialist Physiotherapist

 

 

 

If you want more information of help from Beth or you are worried about having a fall or your balance isn’t as good as it used to be give us a call on 01702 613542 and we will see how we can be of help.

We are running our Balance and Falls workshop with Beth on Thursday 29th August at 11.30am at the clinic so if you want to find out more about what Beth will be talking about and how she can help you then please give us a call 🙂