Falls – Prevention, Rehabilitation and Education.
Background to falls
A fall is when a person transitions from standing or at a higher level unintentionally to the floor. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on average 37.7 million falls are in need or medical attention, these are generally in adults over 60. Falling can result in serious injury and falls sufferers will need support after. This support may mean staying in hospital, carer support and rehabilitation. Anyone can have a fall, but older people are more vulnerable and likely to fall, especially if they have a long-term health condition. There are hundreds of reasons as to why falls occur and although the elderly are at a higher risk due to conditions such as Parkinson’s, Stroke and MS.
What should I do if I fall?
If you suffer a fall and do not feel like you have sustained any significant damage, stay calm and try to get up as safely as possible to a more comfortable position such as sitting on the sofa. Rolling is always a safe action to take to find an item of furniture to support yourself getting up.
Hold on to the furniture with both hands to support yourself and, when you feel ready, slowly get up. Sit down and rest for a while before carrying on with your daily activities.
If you’re hurt or unable to get up, try to get someone’s attention by calling out for help, banging on the wall or floor, or using your personal alarm or security system (if you have one). If possible, crawl to a telephone and dial 999 to ask for an ambulance.
Try to reach something warm, such as a blanket or dressing gown, to put over you, particularly your legs and feet.
Stay as comfortable as possible and try to change your position at least once every half an hour or so.
You may want to get a personal alarm system so that you can signal for help in the event of a fall.
An alternative would be to always keep a mobile phone in your pocket so you can phone for help after having a fall.
If you’re living with or caring for an elderly person, read what to do after an incident.
There are many injuries that may occur during a fall this can include; ligament and/or joint damage, bone fractures, head injuries and many more. The severity of a fall can depend on factors such as age, underlying health conditions such as osteoporosis.
During the winter months and with the roads and paths icing over. Preventing a fall is vitally important, if you are susceptible to falling already. When on a walk, wear shoes that have good grip and use support such as crutches, walking stick/s or support from a family member, carer or friend. Many people will waddle when in an area that is icy (much like a penguin), this is a good option as you will walk with your body weight underneath your feet. See the picture below.
How can Physiotherapy help?
Here at Flex Health, we deal with many musculoskeletal, neurological and orthopaedic injuries. We see patients suffering following a fall or wanting to improve their function to reduce a fall. We can assess and treat, providing you with improved symptoms such as improving your pain, bettering your strength, and ability such as function (walking up and down stairs). There are core components that physiotherapists work on; balance, strength and co-ordination, and improving function alongside side all of these factors. There is a large collection of exercises and rehabilitation techniques that can help, below are a few that can help.
Balance – To improve your balance try standing with your legs together (this will reduce your base of support and improve your balance), aim to hold this position for 20 seconds, rest then repeat. Once you have progressed this exercise, move on to standing on one leg and lightly hold on to a chair, again aim for 20 seconds at a time. As you improve, remove your hand support and balance unsupported.
Strength – Examples of easy strength exercises that you can complete at home are sit to stands, step up and step downs and calf raises. These exercises do not require any equipment.
Co-ordination – Finally, co-ordination. Try standing in a small lunge or standing and holding an object in your hands moving it left to right or catching and throwing. Changing your eye line and moving your head will make the exercise much harder.
Get your family involved by helping clear pathways in your household, assist with exercises and provide general encouragement.