Falls are one of the most common causes of hospital admission and one of the most easily prevented accidents. Falls are a major cause of injury for older people. One in 3 people over the age of 65 report having a fall at least once a year. 60 % of falls happen in or around the home. Falls can be prevented or the risk vastly reduced by taking some sensible precautions around your home.
Some medications can contribute to the risk of falls. They may cause dizziness or light headedness, altered balance, altered consciousness or perception, “fuzzy” thinking, drowsiness, low blood pressure or the need to hurry to the toilet.
You may be at a greater risk of falls if you are taking medications for:
- Fluid Retention (fluid tablets)
- Constipation (laxatives)
- Blood Pressure or heart problems
- Anxiety or depression
- Difficulty sleeping
- Strong Pain
- Parkinson’s Disease or other Musculoskeletal problems
If you feel that you are affected by your medications discuss this with your Doctor or Pharmacist. Various combinations of medications may also cause undesirable side effects.
Some medical conditions which may also contribute to the risk of falls:
- Certain heart conditions
- Parkinson’s Disease or other Musculoskeletal Disorders
- Low Blood Pressure
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Infections such as bladder infections, gastroenteritis or ‘Flu
- First few weeks after Cataract surgery
Further strategies to minimise the risk of falls are:
- Get up slowly from a lying or sitting position to avoid dizziness and light headedness
- Take care when bending over and make sure you are steady before walking
- Avoid rushing when walking
- Plan your moves ahead
- Lift your feet when walking if possible to avoid shuffling
- Watch where you are walking especially in unfamiliar surroundings such as uneven footpaths
- Use aids if required when walking such as walking sticks, frames, glasses
- Avoid wearing loose fitting footwear such as thongs, slippers, scuffs
- Avoid walking in socks
- Get Podiatry or Doctor advice for appropriate treatment of bunions, corns, sore or swollen feet
- Exercise daily where possible to help maintain your muscle tone, strength, balance and mobility (Ask a Physio or your Doctor to provide you with a list of exercises to accomplish this)
- Remove, or mark even small changes in floor level, steps and stairs with a contrasting colour or tape so that they are more easily seen
- Try to wear comfortable, good fitting shoes with a low heel and soles that grip and have secure fasteners such as laces or Velcro
- If incontinence is an issue ask to speak to a Continence Nurse Adviser for exercises and tips on how to optimise your continence (Speak to a Continence Nurse Adviser or Pharmacist to advise you about the appropriate pads to wear if necessary)
- Have your eyes tested 2 yearly to check whether you may need glasses or that your current prescription is satisfactory
Falls Prevention Programs
If you have had a fall or falls or near misses you may benefit from a Community Falls Prevention Program. These programs help you to identify your falls risks, train you in muscle strengthening and balance exercises and other falls prevention strategies.
Contact your local shire, council or community health services for more information.
You may be able to self refer to one in your State or Territory or ask your Doctor or Physiotherapist to refer you to one.
Getting Up Safely After a Fall If You Are On Your Own
- Learn and practice how to get up off the floor if you are uninjured. Practice this when someone else is with you in case you experience any problems.
- Have a plan for how you would manage such an emergency including how you would summon help.
- Carry your mobile phone or personal alarm with you at all times if you have one.
- You may choose to carry a whistle in a pocket or around your neck, making sure that your neighbours know to respond if they hear it.
- Keep your landline phone within easy reach such as on a low table.
- Have some way of calling for help if you live on your own. Explore getting a personal alarm (worn around the neck or wrist), or keep a mobile or cordless phone with you at all times.
- Leave a spare key with a family member, trusted neighbour or friend who lives nearby so they can assist you quickly.
If You Cannot Get Up
- Don’t panic – rest for a few minutes until you can think clearly and the initial shock has worn off before trying to get up
- If you are still unable to get up- use one of your planned strategies to summon help or make a banging sound with anything to hand to get attention
- Make yourself as comfortable as possible and try to stay warm
- If possible drag yourself onto carpet and cover yourself with anything to help keep yourself warm such as clothing, dry towels, blankets etc.
- Try to avoid lying in the one position for too long –gently reposition yourself if able to reduce the risk of developing a pressure sore
Getting Up After A Fall
- Take a few minutes to calm down- getting up whilst you are shaky or rising too quickly may cause you to have another fall
- Take some deep, calming breaths
- Check over your body. If you are not badly injured you can think about getting up. If you think you may have broken a bone, stay where you are and call for help or make a banging sound with anything to hand to get attention
- Look around for a sturdy piece of furniture such as a chair
- Roll onto your side and then into a crawling position if you are able and crawl or drag yourself to the chair
- Take a moment to rest and gather your strength
- Try to get onto your knees in a kneeling position
- Holding onto the arms or seat of the chair for support, bring one knee forward and put that foot on the floor
- Push up with your arms and legs, firmly holding on to the chair and pivot your bottom around
- Sit down and rest before trying to move
If you have hit your head in the fall or have difficulty walking or have an obvious injury dial 000 for an Ambulance.
It is important to report any fall to your Doctor as soon as possible to help identify whether there was a medical or medication cause for the fall and to have a full check up.
For further information on falls prevention a really good resource is: