balanceFalls and Balance Awareness

In the 2015 Health & Wellbeing Survey, you told us that some of you have had falls since childhood but that now nearly a third of you are having problems with falls or balance issues.

We wanted to make you more aware of why you can fall, the risks of having a fall and what you can do to help prevent a fall.

Introduction

The risk of a fall increases for everyone as they grow older. For some of you, not being able to protect yourself in a fall  can mean significant injury and even a small injury can make your disability worse and cause you to be more reliant on others. In addition you have told us having a fall can change the way you feel about yourself and the way you go about your daily life.

Why do I fall?

fallsThere are many reasons why someone falls, for example loss of balance and being unsteady when you walk. However, it is usually a combination of several different issues that increases your risk of falling. These are some of the biggest causes:

  • If you have had a fall in the past
  • Walking issues and being unsteady on your feet i.e. balance problems
  • Muscle weakness and foot problems
  • Low Blood pressure
  • Poor eyesight
  • Poor control of passing urine, having to rush to the toilet
  • Obstacles around the homeIn addition:
  • Medication – some common tablets that you can even buy over the counter can cause dizziness or lower your Blood Pressure. If you take different tablets and  more than one of these have these side-effects then the combination  can greatly increase these kind of side-effects and  increase your risk of falling.
  • Generalised pain
  • Drinking too much alcohol – this can affect your balance and  your ability to control your fall
  • Poor health e.g. arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson’s, stroke
  • Some heart conditions can cause you to black out and fall

What are the risks of falling and how does it affect you?

Some of you have told us you have suffered serious injury by falling, for example, you have hurt your heads, suffered severe bruising, broken arms, legs etc. Some of you with short arms have described a “whiplash effect” to the neck in the fall that has taken time to heal. Any fall even a minor one can increase your disability for a while and make you more dependent on others. Having a fall can also make you lose confidence in your ability to get around because you are frightened of having another fall. Here are some other consequences of having a fall;

  • Feeling more vulnerable, going out socially less
  • Feeling embarrassed about falling
  • Feeling less confident about things in general
  • Being less active outdoors,
  • Needing more support/help with activities
  • Having to make changes to your home/garden

How do I reduce the risk and cope with falls?

The single biggest thing you can do yourself to prevent a fall is to do some simple exercises to strengthen the muscles in your legs and improve your balance. You can learn these in a group, such as in tai chi, or individually with a physiotherapist or personal trainer. Some beneficiaries have taken up Pilates. The following are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling:

  • Learning to fall ‘safely’ – we know some of you have had to learn to do this since childhood. However, it may become more difficult as you get older and you lose strength and flexibility. A physiotherapist  or a personal trainer can help.
  • Learn how to get up after a fall – again some of you have been doing this since childhood but some of you may have lost the ability to do this and a physiotherapist or a personal trainer can help
  • Using a walking stick or other walking aid
  • Healthy eating and weight loss – this can  improve your flexibility and make it easier for you to get up after the fall
  • Carry a mobile phone with you
  • Get your eyesight checked
  • Ensure you eat healthily and have calcium rich foods such as milk, yoghurts etc. to make sure your bones remain strong. An additional supplement of Vitamin D of 400 iu daily is recommended for everyone in the UK.

How can I reduce the risk of falls at home?

The following are tips on how to reduce the risk of falling at home:

  • Immediately mopping up spillages
  • Removing clutter, trailing wires and frayed carpet
  • Using non-slip mats and rugs
  • Using high-wattage light bulbs in lamps and torches, so you can see clearly
  • Organising your home so that climbing, stretching and bending are kept to a minimum, and to avoid bumping into things
  • Getting help to do things that you're unable to do safely on your own

Should I seek medical advice?

If you have had a fall you can go to see your GP for medical advice particularly if you don’t know why you fell. They can help look to see if there are any underlying medical issues that contributed to the fall and help with how you are feeling. You can ask them to look to see if any tablets you take are causing you to feel dizzy or light headed - make sure you mention any you take from a chemist that they may not know. Very importantly they can also refer you to a Falls clinic where they will help you to look at everything mentioned in this fact here.

You are not alone......

Unfortunately if you have had a fall or are still experiencing falls, you are not alone and if you want to share your experience of falling with other beneficiaries, please let us know and we can arrange for this to be put on our website.

Where can I get further information on how falls affect beneficiaries?

The Trust carried out a piece of research into Falls and Balance, please click here to read the findings of the report.