Managing the risk of falls


Falls are a particular problem as you age as they can lead to fractures especially of the hip. Find information on what increases the risk of falls, things you can do for yourself to lower the risk of falls and who to see if you need expert advice on how to lower your risk of falls.

What increases the risk of a fall?

Factors that may lead to an increased risk of a fall, especially for older women, include:

  • poor vision
  • a decreased sense of joint position
  • poor balance
  • poor physical strength
  • increased frailty

Actions to minimise the risk of a fall

Frequent falls may lead you to lose confidence in your ability to move and this can affect your sense of independence. It is worth taking action to minimise the risk of a fall. These actions include:

Lighting Ensure you have enough lights in and around your home to make navigation in darker areas and at night easier.
Furniture Move small items of furniture to keep the number of things you might fall over to a minimum.
Rugs Limit the number of rugs in your home if they create an uneven floor surface.
Stairs Choose accommodation with a minimum of stairs.
Rails and/or mats Install rails and/or non-slip mats near stairs and slippery surfaces such as the bathroom floor.
Shoes Choose shoes that give you enough support and traction.
Medication Check whether your medications can affect balance because your doctor may be able to find an alternative.
Vision Check your vision regularly to ensure your vision is correct or corrected.
Medical check-up Have a regular check-up so your doctor can assess your bone strength and how you are walking.
Balance and muscle strengthening exercises

Get advice from a physiotherapist or join a class at a local community health centre because:

  • muscle strengthening
  • balance training and
  • Tai Chi exercise

have been shown to reduce the incidence of falls[1]

Walking aide If your doctor recommends a walking aide, use it as a preventative measure so you avoid falls.

If you are falling because you are fainting as a result of a disorder of your heart rhythm you may need to be assessed and treated by a heart specialist (cardiologist).

The use of hip protectors for the very frail elderly may also reduce the incidence of hip fracture although further research on their use is needed.

If you need expert advice:

  • Physiotherapists can provide assistance with aides for walking.
  • Occupational therapists or your community health centre can advise you about making your home environment safer.

References

  1. Helge EW, Kanstrup IL. Bone density in female elite gymnasts: Impact of muscle strength and sex hormones. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2002;34:174-80

Last updated 07 November 2017 — Last reviewed 15 December 2013

** Currently under review **

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at December 2013.

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