Falls requiring hospitalisation are more common in older people and most likely to occur in the home. Injuries as a result of falls, such as a broken leg or hip, can lead to major life changes.
Who is most at risk of falling?
Your chances of falling increase if you’ve had a fall in the past six months.
Other risk factors include:
- Home hazards such as loose shoes, slippery tiles, steps, rugs on the floor and other trip hazards.
- Sensory and balance problems including muscle weakness, low vision or blindness.
- Medication (side effects) and changes in medication.
- Chronic diseases including dementia, Parkinson’s, hypotension (low blood pressure), diabetes, arthritis, stroke, osteoporosis, anxiety and depression.
- Short term illness (such as colds or flu or other infection) or recovery post-surgery.
How to reduce your risk
To help prevent falls and minimise injuries you can:
- Eat healthy and nutritious food and drink enough fluids
- Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle, with regular resistance (strengthening) and balance exercises.
- Only take medication as prescribed and discus any side effects with your GP.
- Ensure annual reviews of your medications, especially if taking multiple medications.
- Wear comfortable, firm-fitting, flat shoes with fastenings and rubber soles that grip
- Hazard proof your home – removing trip hazards like loose rugs and frayed edges of carpet
- Ensure adequate lighting, especially at night
- If applicable, always using your walking aid
- Install grab rails in the bathroom and at steps or stairs
- Keep pathways around your home clean and in good repair
- If reliant on glasses, ensure an annual review of your prescription with your optometrist
- Mark the edge of steps so they’re easier to see.
Get help to prevent falls
If you, or the person you care for, has dementia, you can ask your GP to develop your chronic disease management plan. As part of this plan, your GP can refer you to a range of therapists including exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, podiatrists and occupational therapists for help. You an get up to five subsidised allied health visits every year.
Many state and territory health departments run FREE falls prevention programs. Don’t forget to ask your GP or GP nurse about programs in your area.
Exercise physiologists and physiotherapists can develop a tailored program to improve your balance, flexibility and strength.
Occupational therapists can undertake an assessment of your home and provide tailored advice or suggest modifications to reduce falls risk. This may include improve lighting, using colour contrast and suggesting assistive technologies to help. The Home FAST website gives home safety tips to prevent falls and you can do a self-assessment.
In case of falls, it may be worth wearing a personal alarm or fall-detector, especially for people who live alone. This can alert family or friends, or even an ambulance in the event of a fall.