12 Days of Christmas: Falls Prevention

We worked with North Road Primary School in Carnforth, Lancashire to share a special Christmas message about how to prevent falls this winter. Falls are the number one reason older people are taken to the emergency department in a hospital and we want to reduce this.

The Year Five class who helped us make this video are singing along to the the tune of 12 Day of Christmas, with a few revised lyrics. Read more about each tip below.

  • On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
    Some slippers to keep me on my feet

Age UK advise that walking indoors in bare feet, socks or tights can increase your risk of falling. Avoid wearing soft, floppy, loose-fitting or open-backed slippers such as mules (slip-ons) because these can cause you to trip. Look for slippers that have velcro fastening and a cushioned sole, with a high collar at the back that fits snugly around your ankle, helping you to improve stability.

Well-fitting shoes provide better support than well-fitting slippers. If you are unsteady on your feet or have already had a fall, consider wearing comfortable shoes at home instead of slippers.

 

  1. On the second day of Christmas my physio told me:
    Do strength exercises twice a week

As we get older muscle strength and balance reduces, which can increase the risk of falling. The best way to counteract this is to be active and perform exercises to improve strength and balance.

Simple strength exercises can be done at home to improve your health and mobility. Don’t worry if you haven’t done much for a while; there are some gentle and easy to follow exercises on the NHS website, including chair-based exercises: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/strength-exercises/  

There is also a great video from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy which shows how to do some falls exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8s-8KtfgFM

 

  1. On the third day of Christmas my brother reminded me:
    I need to get my eyes checked regularly           

Saga advises people’s eyesight can change – and it’s not just ‘old-age long sight’ that can cause vision problems. Ageing can decrease contrast sensitivity (making it harder to see the edge of steps and kerbs), alter depth-perception and cause visual field disturbances – all of which make you more likely to fall.

To help combat this, you can have a sight examination yearly, even if you think you’re fine (it’s free for over-60s) as the optician is also checking for glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Don’t rely on supermarket reading glasses long-term: it’s rare for both eyes to require identical correction.

 

  1. On the fourth day of Christmas my daughter said to me:
    Did you fall and not told anyone recently?

If you or someone you know has had a fall, it is important that the person’s GP is made aware of it as it means that they will be able to give advice on cutting future risks and look at any medications that may have side effects that increase the risk of having another fall.

 

  1. On the fifth day of Christmas my pharmacist told me:
    In winter have lots of Vitamin D

Saga advises that certain groups of the population are at risk of not getting enough vitamin D. The Government recommends people 65 years and over, those not exposed to much sun and those with darker skin, all take a daily vitamin D supplement (10 micrograms). Sunlight exposure without sunscreen should be limited to 10 mins per day on the arms and face between May and September but NO burning!

  

  1. On the sixth day of Christmas my doctor said to me:
    Some medication can make you dizzy

If you’re taking long-term medication, your GP should review your medicines at least once a year to make sure they’re still right for you. It’s particularly important that your medicines are reviewed if you’re taking 4 or more medicines a day.

Your GP may recommend alternative medication or lower doses if they feel the side effects increase your chances of having a fall. In some cases, it may be possible for the medication to be stopped. See your GP or practice nurse if you have not had your medication reviewed for more than a year, or if you’re concerned that the medicines you or a relative are taking may increase the risk of falling.

 

  1. On the seventh day of Christmas my neighbour explained to me:
    Having strong bones will keep you healthy

Keeping your bones as strong as possible can reduce the risk of fractures if you fall. Regular weight bearing exercise, ensuring a good intake of calcium rich foods (such as milk, cheese, yogurt and oily fish) and ensuring vitamin D levels are maintained (from adequate sun exposure and dietary sources including oily fish and cod liver oil) are all ways of keeping your bones strong.

 

  1. On the eighth day of Christmas my sister asked me:
    Are there any trip hazards we can see?

It’s important to keep an eye out for trip hazards in your home and reduce the chances of a fall as much as possible; things like slippy rugs, frayed carpets and storing items on the stairs can all increase the chances of a fall.         

You can request a home hazard assessment if you’re concerned that you or a relative may be at risk of having a fall, or if you know someone who has recently had a fall. As well as identifying potential hazards, the aim of a home hazard assessment is to explore how a person’s actual use of the environment affects their risk of falling.

A healthcare professional with experience in fall prevention will visit you or your relative’s home to identify potential hazards and advise on how to deal with them. For example as the bathroom is a common place where falls occur, many older people can benefit from having bars fitted to the inside of their bath to make it easier for them to get in and out.

Fitting a personal alarm system may also be recommended so that you or your relative 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.

Contact your GP or local authority to ask about the help available in your area. 

 

  1. On the ninth day of Christmas my son reminded me:
    Keep a torch or light by your bed at night to see

Saga recommends that you should always use your bedside light when getting up at night; if the switch is not easily accessible, keep a good torch by the bed. It’s also a good idea to keep your landing or hall lights on at night.

 

  1. On the tenth day of Christmas my partner said to me:
    Check there’s nowhere in the house that’s slippy

Slippery surfaces in the colder months can increase the risk of falling. Ensuring doorsteps are free from wet leaves and treating ice by applying salt or sand can help reduce chances of slipping. When you are outside you should really try to avoid slippery surfaces even if this means taking a slightly longer route. Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid walking on some surfaces but you can reduce your risk of falling over inside by not walking on slippery floors in socks or tights and you can also use non-slip mats and rugs.

 

  1. On the eleventh day of Christmas my cousin reminded me:
    Wear shoes with good grip when you're out with me

Age UK explain that shoes that fit well protect and support your feet and may improve your balance and stability. Keep your shoes in good condition – check for uneven heel wear or worn soles. If you can, get your feet measured when buying new shoes as your foot shape can change with age. Shoes should be comfortable when you try them on. If your shoes don’t fit well they can make even mild foot problems worse. Don’t buy them if they’re too tight thinking you can break them in. It’s a good idea to shop for shoes in the afternoon if your feet swell during the day.

You don’t have to buy specially-made or expensive footwear. Follow the tips on the handy shoe diagram in the Best Foot Forward guide and you should be able to find the right shoes at an affordable price. You can also ask your chiropodist for advice on the best footwear for you.

 

  1. On the twelfth day of Christmas my good friend reminded me:
    Do your balance exercises properly!

As we get older muscle strength and balance reduces, which can increase the risk of falling. The best way to counteract this is to be active and perform exercises to improve strength and balance. Simple balance exercises can be done at home to improve your health and mobility. Don’t worry if you haven’t done much for a while; there are some gentle and easy to follow exercises on the NHS website, including chair-based exercises: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/balance-exercises/

Balance exercises can also take the form of simple activities such as walking and dancing or specialist training programmes. Many community centres and local gyms offer specialist training programmes for older people.

 

There’s lots of useful information on the Falls Prevention section of the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/falls/prevention/  

 Take a look at Age UK’s ‘Best Foot Forward’ leaflet: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/Falls/ID201320%20FAW%20best%20foot%20forward.pdf?dtrk=true

Take a look at Saga’s ‘Get up and Go’ leaflet: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Falls/Documents/SAGA_Falls-Prevention.pdf