Falls are a common and major cause of injury in the elderly. It is the main reason for injury-related hospital admissions in people aged 65 and over with one in three people aged 65 and older having a fall every year. Although most falls result in minor injuries such as cuts and abrasions, 15% will have a major injury including fractures, head trauma and dislocations. After a fall you are at an increase chance of it occurring again. Therefore it is important to reduce your chance of a fall to allow you to stay independent for longer.
What causes a fall?
Falls are multifactorial: meaning there are many factors that can contribute. There are two main factors:
- Intrinsic (physiological): Chronic illnesses, poor vision, muscle weakness, previous history of a fall and some medications.
- Extrinsic (environmental): Stairs, slippery surfaces, rugs, pets, wet/cold weather, poor lighting and uneven pavements.
How can I prevent a fall?
The good news is falls risks can be reduced in most elderly people. Some risk factors can be easily prevented or changed. Safety can be increased through changes at your home:
- Adequate lighting
- Wiping spills immediately
- Mats and rugs are secure
- Mark the edge of outside steps
- Wear sunglasses and a hat to reduce glare
*For more information on how to reduce your risk of falls and fool proof your home, visit: ‘Australian Government – Department of Health & Ageing’ to download your free falls prevention booklet called “Dont fall for it. Falls can be prevented”.
By focusing on your feet and footwear you can reduce your chance of having a fall.
Research has shown good quality footwear can reduce the chance of a fall occurring. Bad footwear, barefoot and wearing socks all increase your chance of a fall.
Features of a bad shoe:
- Shoes without fixation (e.g. no laces, velcro or straps)
- High heels(>2.5 cm)
- Narrow heels
- Excessively thick, soft soles and slippery, worn soles
Foot problems can impair your balance and increase the risk of falls. Research has shown the following can increase your chance of a fall:
- Foot pain
- Toe deformities (e.g. Hammer toes and clawed toes)
- Muscle weakness and reduced strength
- Reduced range-of-motion in joints
- Reduced sensation
If you have any of these foot problems it is advised you consult a podiatrist. Podiatrists can improve your foot problems by providing:
- Footwear advice
- Orthoses to optimise foot function
- General treatments: (treatment of corns, callous, warts and cutting of toenails)
- Exercises: to increase foot strength, dexterity and balance
Here are some examples of some exercises you could do:
- Whilst touching base with a wall or table, lift both heels off the ground and come on to your toes, then slowly come down.
- Whilst touching base with a wall or table, stand on one leg.
- Whilst touching base with a wall or table, lift both heels off the ground and come on to your toes. Then lift one leg off the floor and slowly come down.
- Place a tissue on the floor. Whilst sitting, pick the tissue up with your toes.
- Whilst sitting, place marbles in between toes and wiggle them out.
- Whilst sitting, place marbles on the floor and grasp marbles with your toes.