Simple steps to stay steady
Falls are not an inevitable part of getting older - there are simple steps you can take to stay steady, reduce your chance of falling, prevent serious injury if you do fall and keep up and about.
The four key things you can do are:
- Keep active
- Get checked up regularly – eyes and feet
- Get your medicines reviewed
- Make sure you have a falls-safe home
It is also important to be safer when you’re out and about and know what to do if you do fall.
It is important to keep active as we get older. There are loads of different types of activity and exercise – choose one that suits you.
To help you with your muscle strength and balance, West Sussex County Council have produced a simple guide showing the Super Six exercises to keep you steady and reduce your risk of falling. This, together with a video animation showing the exercises, can be downloaded from the West Sussex County Council website. If you would like a hard copy of the guide, contact your local Wellbeing Hub.
It is important to try and remain physically active, carrying out exercises to maintain muscle strength, balance and flexibility. These can be done in the house or, if possible, in the garden. You should avoid extended periods of sitting, reclining or lying while awake – for example, get up every hour and make a drink or do some housework. All movment counts!
Get your eyes and feet checked regularly
Make sure you get your eyes checked regularly. If you are aged 60 or over, you are eligible for free eye tests on the NHS. Contact your local opticians to book an appointment - some can even come to you!
Take care of your feet and make sure you get them checked regularly. Keep toenails trimmed and make sure you moisturise to avoid painful cracking. See a podiatrist if foot care is becoming more tricky.
Get your medicines reviewed
The older we get, the more likely we are to be prescribed medications for several different health conditions; it is estimated that 36% of people over 75 are on four or more different drugs. Some common ones are associated with dizziness, drops in blood pressure when you stand up or sleepiness - all of which can raise the risk of falling.
Never stop taking any prescribed medication suddenly. Make an appointment with your GP or health professional to get your medications reviewed. Its important they get reviewed every 12 months.
Create a falls-safe home
There are many things you can do to make your home safer:
- Clear away clutter
- Make sure all rugs have non-slip underlay
- Tidy trailing cables
- Ensure stairs are clear
- Consider installing an additional bannister on the stairs or rails in the bathroom
- Think about installing two way switches for landing/hallways
- Use a bedside light when getting up - avoid walking about in the dark
- Book in for a free visit from the West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service who can help make your home safer.
Be safer out and about
There are some simple steps you can take to feel safer and more confident outside the home.
- If you need to, use a walking aid, such as walking poles, walking sticks or frames
- Don’t feel pressured to walk quicker than you wish to
- Use a backpack to carry shopping
- Ask the bus driver to let you sit before moving off
- Be careful when entering or exiting shops that are not level with the pavement
Tell someone if you do fall
It’s really important to tell someone if you fall. Tell your GP, and ask for them to review any medication.
Discuss any concerns or worries with your GP or other healthcare professional if you:
- Have had more than one fall in the last 12 months
- Had a fall in your home
- Blacked out, were dizzy when you fell, or found yourself on the ground and you didn’t know why
- Feel dizzy on standing up or when walking
- Feel unsteady on your feet
- Haven’t had a review of your medication in the last year
- Don’t get out as much as you’d like as you’re worried about tripping or falling
Contact your local Wellbeing Hub and get booked onto exercise classes for older people to keep you up and about. You could also be eligible for a free trial of assistance technology, to keep you independent and at home.
Know what to do if you fall
If you do fall and you think you can get up, follow these simple six steps:
Roll onto your side, then push up onto your elbows
Use your arms to push yourself onto your hands and knees
Crawl to a very stable piece of furniture (a sturdy chair or bed) and hold onto it for support
Slide or raise the foot of your stronger leg fowards so that it’s flat on the floor
Lean forwards and push up using your arms and front leg, slowly rising to standing position
Turn around and sit down. Sit for a minute or two to rest
If you fall and you cannot get up:
- Use your pendant alarm if you have one or call nearby neighbours on your phone - put them on speed dial now
- Use your phone to call 999
- Bang on the wall, radiator or floor
- Stay warm. Cover yourself with anything you can find - tablecloth, blanket, rug or coat
- Put a cushion under your head or roll up an item of clothing
- Keep moving. Roll from side to side and move your limbs if it’s not too painful in order to help keep you warm and maintain circulation
- Keep your fluids up if you can reach a drink