How to fall proof your life

How to fall proof your life
For older people, a fall around the home can mean serious injury that can jeopardise independence. Here are some simple precautions you can take to prevent falls
According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), slips, trips and falls are the most common accidents in UK homes and lead to more than a million people going to hospital annually. Of all home-owners, older people are the most vulnerable as changes in vision, hearing, coordination, balance and reflexes make them susceptible to falls.
As we age, our gait changes—the stride tends to shorten and we lift our feet less. This change of step often results in older people having a distinctive shuffling gait that can lead to an increased risk of tripping. And when they do fall, they are more likely to sustain a fracture or serious injury as they have lower bone density than younger people. The two most common injuries that occur as a result of falls in older people are wrist fractures or dislocations, and fractures of the femur.
"Slips, trips and falls are the most common accidents in UK homes"
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that all people at risk of falls should be offered a home assessment, and that interventions to modify conditions in the home should be made, to reduce the risk. Ask your doctor for further details if you or an older or vulnerable relative are at increased risk of falls.

Helping yourself

Smiling elderly woman
You can rest easy knowing that you have taken the necessary steps to minimise the risk of falls
Older people can do a great deal to prevent falls and maintain an active, independent lifestyle for longer. If you may be vulnerable, follow these simple precautions:
  • Ask your doctor about the side-effects of the medicines you are taking, as some can affect your coordination or balance.
  • Be sure to have your eyes checked every year as vision problems can cause a slip or trip.
  • Don’t get up too quickly after eating, sleeping or resting. Your blood pressure may have dropped and could cause dizziness.
  • Choose sensible footwear with non-slip soles that are not too thick. Lace-up or Velcro-secured shoes are preferable to slip-ons or slippers.
  • Stay as physically active as you can to improve strength and muscle tone, which in turn helps to keep joints, tendons and ligaments flexible so you can move more easily.
  • Try exercises to enhance balance and coordination, which prevents falls, and mild weight-bearing activity, which can reduce the loss of bone and therefore bone fragility due to osteoporosis. Tai chi and dancing are especially good as they combine individually paced exercise with a sociable setting.
  • Keep your alcohol intake well below the recommended limits as this can adversely affect your balance and reflexes.
  • Use a walking stick, walker or other helpful device, if appropriate, and make sure it is the right height. Don’t let pride or embarrassment stand in your way.

How to fall proof your home

There are several effective steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of falls and accidents and make your home safer. Make sure you have:

Level, even floors

Make sure floorboards and floor tiles are level. Rugs and carpets should be non-slip or secured to the floor with tacks, non-skid pads or double-sided tape.
Make sure that your garden is as level and clear as possible, with no broken or uneven paving stones.
Clean, clutter-free stylish living room
Keeping a clear, clutter-free space is essential for preventing falls

A clear, organised space

Electrical cords and wires should be placed out of the way, and hallways and rooms cleared of obstacles for safe movement. Floors should be clear of clutter that could trip you up.
Light switches, telephones and everyday items such as crockery and pans should all be easily accessible.
"Everyday items should all be easily accessible"
Frequently used items should be stored as close to waist height as possible, not too high to reach easily or too low to risk back strain.

The right furniture and house accessories

Beds and chairs should be at the correct height—neither too high nor too low—to minimise the risk of falling.
Make sure the lighting is adequate, especially on staircases, in corridors and in bathrooms.
Make sure all handrails are secure, and install grab bars on stairs, along corridors and in the bathroom by the toilet, bath and shower.
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