There are lots of simple things that you can do to help you stay steady on your feet, whether you are worried about falling, are fit and active, or have difficulty with your mobility.
You can help to prevent falls by staying fit and active. Physical activity helps to improve mobility, strength, balance, flexibility and stamina. There are a variety of ways to be active which can include gardening, housework, walking, swimming and exercise classes. If you are already active, Tai Chi and dancing are good activities to help you keep good balance and stronger muscles and bones.
It is also possible to do some simple balance training exercises at home. If you have a health condition and are unsure as to what exercise is right for you, please discuss it with your GP before exercising.
Getting your Flu jab and taking advantage of health checks offered by your doctor will help maintain your wellbeing. Being unwell can cause people to fall.
Avoid missing meals and eat regular meals throughout the day. Try to drink at least eight cups of fluid each day, or approximately one litre. Caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee, can act as a diuretic and make you want to pass urine, so make sure that the fluid you drink includes lots of water. Try and eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day; fresh, frozen, chilled, canned, 100 percent juice, and dried fruit and vegetables all count.
Dizziness can be a reason for falling. There can be many causes for dizziness so it is worth speaking with your GP if dizziness is a problem for you. It is also important to speak with your GP if you have ever lost consciousness or blacked out.
Understand your medicines
Ask for an annual medication review by your GP if you are taking four or more medicines.
Tell the doctor or pharmacist if you are experiencing any side effects. With regular monitoring, problems can be easily avoided or minimised. There may also be an alternative drug that can be used. Some medications can cause dizziness, drowsiness, or affect your balance, so be extra careful when rising from lying to sitting or from sitting to standing. It is also important to take your medicines at the right time of day, following any specific instructions given.
When buying medicines over-the-counter always inform the pharmacist of any prescribed and over-the-counter medicines you are already taking. Similarly, when seeing your doctor, inform him / her of any over-the-counter medication you may be using. Alcohol will increase the risk of falls whether combined with medication or not.
Certain foot problems can affect balance as well as cause pain and discomfort so it is important to report any foot concerns to your podiatrist or GP.
Footwear should be comfortable and ideally have a fastening, low heels, high sides and a good tread. Slippers should have backs and a fastening. It is best to wear shoes or slippers during the day; walking around the house in socks or bare feet can increase the risk of slipping or falling.
If you use insoles or splints and have not had these checked for a while please make contact with the service that you got them from.
Eyesight plays an important part in balance and mobility. It is important to have your eyes checked and glasses prescription reviewed at least every two years, or every year if over 70 years of age. Remember to tell your optician if you have had a fall.
If you notice changes in vision go and see your optician, don’t wait until your next eye test.
Bi-focal and vari-focal glasses can alter perception of distance and so care must be taken on stairs and steps, uneven pavements and kerbs.
Hearing loss is more likely with increasing age and problems with hearing can affect balance. It is important to have regular hearing checks and ensure hearing aids are well maintained.
Speak with your GP if you have noticed a change in your hearing.
Fear of falling
Whether you have fallen before or not you may feel anxious about falling. This can sometimes lead to avoiding moving about, which can result in a reduction in muscle strength. This in turn can increase your risk of falling. If you feel worried or anxious about falling tell a health professional, there are services available to help.
- Check any walking aids are in good working order
- Keep the house well lit, especially the stairs and landing
- Take care when getting out of bed at night and turn on a night-light, lamp or torch to light the way
- Check the house for trip hazards, such as rugs, cables, frayed carpets, or clutter
- Handrails on both sides of stairs can make them safer
- Be aware of where pets are when moving around
- Keep warm; cold muscles do not work well
- Take time when rising from lying to sitting or from sitting to standing as moving too quickly can make people feel light-headed
- Avoid trailing clothes that could trip you up
- Keep things in easy reach to avoid overstretching, climbing or bending
- Do not rush to answer the door or telephone
- Watch out for uneven paths and slippery surfaces outside
- Consider a community alarm and ensure it is worn
- Make a plan in the event of having a fall at home
- If adaptations, handrails or specialised equipment are needed at home, then an occupational therapist may be able to help and advise.