With an aging global population we are hearing more frequently about older people being more sedentary, and as a result more likely to fall.
Falls are common and costly, especially amongst people 65 and older – but they are preventable and do not have to be an inevitable part of aging.
There are several causes that might contribute to someone falling – muscle weakness, poor balance, poor sight, certain medication or a mix of medications, hazards around home, or outside, and some specific medical conditions. (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/falls-applying-all-our-health/falls-applying-all-our-health)
Low bone density (osteoporosis) contributes to fractures when people fall, and in the UK over 3million people suffer with this condition.
The costs, monetarily to the health sector, and personally to individuals is very high. In 2017/18 the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) reported that there were over 200k emergency hospital admissions related to falls among patients aged 65 and over 150k of the patients were over 80. In England, in 2013, falls were the ninth highest cause of “disability-adjusted life years”. It has been estimated that the total annual cost of fragility fractures to the UK has been estimated at £4.4billion.
What are the practical solutions to improve this?
Here are four things that people can do to prevent falls:
- Discuss any worries with the doctor and healthcare provider – ask them to review any medication as the way medicines work within our bodies can change as we age.
- Exercise, stay active and include single leg balances – with a bent leg. If you balance with a straight leg the skeleton supports the body, not the postural muscles. So if you brush your teeth standing on one leg, make sure the leg is bent.
- Have your eyes and feet checked regularly. Poor vision can increase chances of falling; poor footcare, sore feet, can impact how we walk (our gait) and make us more unbalanced.
- Review the safety in your home – make sure there is nothing that can be easily tripped over, get grab bars installed where they might help, and look at the lighting – can you clearly see where you are going?
Whatever activity you decide to do, start now – starting earlier helps. Just 10-15 minutes of practice per day can enable a significant improvement in someone’s confidence and enable them to remain active and independent – something we all want – I know I do.