How to avoid falls 

elderly falling in bathroom because slippery surfaces

The Holisticare team have been talking a lot about falls recently. The reasons for this are because the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Saga and Public Health England have produced a leaflet called “Get Up and Go” (pick one up from Reception); the seasons have changed and the nights and weather are changing; we’ve seen an increase in patients needing our help after suffering an injury through falling and World Osteoporosis Day was on Friday 20th October.

Osteoporosis affects over 3 million people in the UK with more than 500,000 needing hospital treatment for osteoporosis fractures every year. Worldwide it causes 9 million fractures annually. In 1996 the National Osteoporosis Society set up World Osteoporosis Day and the International Osteoporosis Foundation took it on in 1998. The aim is to raise public awareness about bone health and fracture prevention advice to more than two billion people.

Osteoporosis weakens bones gradually, developing over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture. Injuries can happen to any bone but the most common are the wrist, hip and vertebrae. Taking regular exercise, eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, not smoking and keeping alcohol consumption to sensible levels can all help to prevent osteoporosis. If you have, or suspect you have, osteoporosis please let your therapist know.

Older people are more vulnerable and more likely to fall particularly if they have a long-term health condition but anyone can fall and hurt themselves. Approximately 1 in 3 adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy says that half of people who fall will fall again in the next 12 months.

There are many risk factors for falling. These include lack of physical activity, long term health conditions such as heart disease and low blood pressure, other health issues such as balance problems, muscle weakness, poor vision surgery, trauma, advancing age, environmental hazards like dim light, certain types of flooring particularly when wet and loose rugs, everyday activity such as going downstairs particularly if carrying something, reaching up for things, getting up to go to the toilet especially in the night, and previous falls.

Injuries from falls are many and varied. A slip and fall tends to result in falling backwards, while a trip and fall ends with falling forwards. The direction you fall can influence the type and severity of your injuries. As well as physical injuries, falls can cause people to lose confidence, become withdrawn and feel as if they’ve lost their independence.

Cuts and abrasions, soft tissue injuries and fractures and breaks are all common in falls. The most frequent areas to be hurt are wrists, backs, shoulders, knees and hips with pelvis and neck not far behind. Pulled muscles, torn or sprained ligaments and tendons can feel as painful as a break. Falls can even cause whiplash. Lower back damage can also result in numbness and tingling in the legs and feet often by a herniated disc or a compression fracture in the vertebrae. Hip and pelvic fractures are often problematic with most people over 65 not returning to completely independent living after a fracture.

At Holisticare, we work with our patients and their carers to prevent falls by:
• Identifying patients who are at risk of falling
• Treating the patient to reduce pain, stiffness and swelling
• Devising a personal exercise programme to improve strength, balance and mobility
• Gait re-education to improve safety and confidence
• Teaching the patient how to safely get up from the ground
• Assessing risks in the home and other environments
• Referring the patient to other professionals as required
• Liaising with family, carers and other professionals involved in the care of at risk patients
• Teaching carers how to safely assist the patient

Each person will have a different history and risks, and therefore the specific treatment and advice given will be individual to that patient.

Any specific falls assessment, exercises and advice will be given by one of our Physiotherapists, but the hands-on Myofascial Release treatment may be carried out by any of our therapists.

Patients may be referred by their family or another health professional particularly for our falls prevention advice and treatment. All our therapists are also continually assessing their patients and if they are concerned, they will speak to the patient (and carer when appropriate) about how we can help.

This service is provided as part of our usual charging structure, based on time, and does not have a set price. This is because we do not know in advance how much treatment will be needed, and we see our Myofascial Release treatment as integral to falls prevention.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you or someone that you know to prevent falls, please call us on 01279 718331.