Falls prevention

Falls prevention

Falls prevention guidance to check if you’re at risk of falling, the steps to look after yourself and what to do if you have a fall.

Anyone can have a fall, but older people, especially those with a long-term health condition, are more vulnerable and likely to fall.

Falls are actually a common, but often overlooked, and approximately 1 in 3 adults over 65, who live at home, will have at least one fall a year, with around half of these having more frequent falls.

The majority of falls don’t result in serious injury, however there’s always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones, which can cause the person to lose confidence, become withdrawn and feel as if they’ve lost their independence.  

This is why it’s important to look after your health and wellbeing, as strength and balance can help reduce the risk of falling.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you know, may be at risk of falling, your GP Practice can often carry out some simple tests to check your balance, along with reviewing any medication you’re taking, which could increase your risk of falling.

Falls prevention guide

Our useful falls prevention guide can help you check if you’re at risk of falling, the steps you can take to look after yourself, both in and out of the home, what to do if you have a fall and the support available. 

Falls checklist and top tips

It’s important to remember that anyone can have a fall, especially if they have a long-term health condition which can affect their balance and co-ordination.  As part of the natural ageing process, it does mean that older people will be more at risk of having a fall.

We can’t stop ourselves from getting older.  However, by understanding the risks associated with having a fall and the preventative measures we can take, before we have a fall, we can help lower the risk.

Checklist

Take a look at our handy checklist, to see if you may be at risk of having a fall.

  • I’ve had a fall, but not been to see anyone about it
  • I haven’t reviewed my medication with my GP practice within the past 12 months
  • I often need to get up to go to the toilet during the night
  • I don’t think I’m as active as I should be (I do less than five sessions a week of 30 minutes moderate activity)
  • I sometimes feel light-headed, dizzy or weak when I stand up or walk
  • I struggle to keep on top of basic tasks around the home
  • I haven’t had my eyes tested in the last year
  • I wear bifocals or varifocals
  • I’ve got quite a lot of clutter in my home
  • I don’t think I drink enough fluids every day (3 pints / 1.6 litres for women and 3.5 pints / 2 litres for men)
  • I struggle to take proper care of my feet
  • my slippers have probably seen better days
  • I have a long-term condition, such as diabetes, arthritis, dementia, heart disease or Parkinson’s
  • I turn off all unnecessary lighting, to help save my electricity costs
  • I think I drink more alcohol than the recommended limit (14 units a week for men and women)
  • I often catch my feet on things which could trip me up, such as the dog or furniture
  • I’m not always that warm in my home
  • I worry about feeling unsteady or tripping over when I leave the house, so I don’t go out as much as I should or I’d like to

Top tips!

  • it’s always best to plan ahead and prepare yourself and your home, just in case you do have a fall.  It will help give you and your family peace of mind, knowing that you’re fully prepared
  • make sure you look after yourself by being more active, eating well and staying hydrated, whilst also using our checklists to make your home and garden as fall proof as possible. These small steps and changes can help you lower your chance of having a fall.  Find out more on our how to reduce your risk of falling section and staying safe in your home
  • if you have a mobile or cordless phone, try to remember to carry it around the house with you, but ensure it’s charged and switched on. Programme the numbers for family, friends and neighbours into all your phones, especially the ones who live nearby and can help if you need them to
  • place cushions, blankets and a bottle of water around your home. Keep them at floor level, so if you fall, you can easily reach them to stay warm, comfortable and hydrated. Wherever you decide to place them, make sure it doesn’t become an additional trip hazard!
  • if you don’t already have a lifeline alarm, consider getting one, as all you’ll need to do is push the button and help will be on its way to you.
  • if you can and you feel safe to do so, try practising getting up from the floor, so if you do have a fall, you know what to do and how to do it safely.

How to reduce your risk of falling

There are a number of different ways you can help reduce your risk of having a fall.  You can look after your health and wellbeing, make simple changes in and around your home and do gentle exercises to improve your strength and balance. 

It’s important to note that some health conditions and medications could potentially affect your stability, making you more likely to fall.  This is why regular check-ups are essential.

Stay active

As we get older, our muscle strength and balance reduces, which can lead to a fall.  There are different exercises you can do, which are designed to improve muscle strength, balance, posture and co-ordination, to help you reduce the risk of having a fall.  Take a look at the simple exercises you can try on our Living Well For Longer pages.

Eat well and stay hydrated

It’s important to keep an eye on your appetite and try to ensure you eat well.  It's always better to eat something little than often if you are unable to manage three main meals.  The food you eat will give you more energy, which you need to keep up your strength and reduce your chance of falling.

Alongside eating well, you should also be drinking plenty of fluids.  If you don’t drink enough, it’s likely that you’ll start to feel light-headed, which will increase your risk of a fall.  It sounds like a lot, but try to drink about six to eight glasses of water a day.

Look after your bones

As you age, your bones naturally become weaker and more brittle, which makes it more likely you will suffer a fracture, if you fall.  It’s important to try and keep your bones healthy and strong by eating calcium-rich foods (including milk, cheese, curly kale, okra and sardines), getting enough vitamin D from sunlight (particularly between April and September) and doing some weight-bearing exercises.

Incontinence problems

It is estimated that approximately 3 to 6 million people aged over 60 in the UK, have a urinary incontinence problem, which means you’re more likely to need to rush to the toilet, especially at night.  This can increase your risk of having a fall, so it’s worth talking to your GP, to see if there’s any exercises or medication you can try, to help improve your incontinence.

Review your medication

If you are taking medication for a health condition, it’s important to remember that some medication can make you feel faint or dizzy and affect your balance.  Let your GP know if you experience any side effects after taking your medication, so they can check the dose or look at alternative options.

Take care of your eyes and ears

As you get older, you may notice that your eyesight changes and you have more problems with your vision, such as it’s harder to gauge depth perception or see the edge of steps and kerbs.  This can affect your balance and co-ordination, which will increase your risk of falling, so it’s important to get your eyes checked every year or certainly at least every two years.  Don’t forget your optician is also checking for conditions like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration.

It’s also likely that your hearing will deteriorate as you get older, which again can have an impact on your balance.  If you think you have a problem with your hearing, talk to your GP, as it might be something which is easily treated, such as a build-up of ear wax, an ear infection or you may need a hearing aid.

Drink less alcohol

As you get older, your body doesn’t process alcohol in the same way it did when you were younger, which means you’re more likely to experience unsteadiness when you drink, which increases your risk of falling.

Wear well fitted shoes

  • as you get older, you’ll probably notice that your feet have changed shape and you’ve lost some feeling and flexibility, which is why it’s so important to buy and wear correctly fitted shoes (not your favourite pair from 20 years ago!)
  • your shoes should be long enough, so your toes don’t touch the end (round or square toed styles offer more room) and they should provide sufficient support around the middle part of your foot
  • the soles should be thin enough so you can feel the ground beneath your feet but cushioned for shock absorption with a good tread
  • try to avoid slip on shoes and go for ones with fastenings, such as laces, as they’ll give you extra support. If you’re buying heeled shoes, try to make sure the heels are low and broad, as this will give you extra stability

Remember: Don’t buy shoes in the morning, as they’re likely to feel tighter in the afternoon, after your feet have swollen a bit.

Say goodbye to worn out slippers

we know you get used to your comfortable, old slippers and it can be hard to throw them away, but if they have holes in their soles, they’re too loose or frayed, it’s time to buy a new pair.  Your slippers should fasten, so they stay on properly, and have a good grip.

Remember: Don’t walk on hard, slippery floors in just your socks or tights, that’s what your new slippers are for!

Look after your feet

  • if you have sore, tingling or swollen feet, which is making it harder for you to safely get around, make an appointment to see your GP, as they might be able to help
  • make sure you regularly trim your toe tails (only cut straight across) and keep your feet moisturised to help prevent painful cracking.  If you have hard skin, try using a pumice stone

Remember: If looking after your own feet is difficult, don’t just ignore them, make an appointment to see a chiropodist or podiatrist instead.

Secure any loose clothing

  • make sure your clothes don’t have any loose hems or hanging tie cords, which you could accidently trip over.  It only takes a few moments to securely fasten your belt or tie your dressing gown cord

Top tips for staying active!

Try not to shuffle when you walk!

It’s easy to get into the habit of not lifting your feet as high as you need to when you walk, but this will increase your chance of catching your feet and tripping.  There are exercises available, to help improve your posture, strength and balance.

The more active you are and the less time you spend sitting down for extended periods of time, the more you can offset the effects of ageing.

There are six simple exercises you can do two or three times a week (or every day, if you’d prefer), to help improve your balance and co-ordination, which can reduce your chance of having a fall.

Please only attempt these exercises if you feel safe to do so and make sure what you're holding onto, is nice and steady.

1)  Heel raises

Stand up tall and hold on to the back of something sturdy with both hands, such as a chair or the kitchen sink.  Lift your heels off the floor and take your weight on your big toes.  Hold the position for 3 seconds, then lower back down to the floor with control.  Repeat the move 10 times.

2)  Toe raises

Stand up tall and continue holding your support with both hands.  Raise your toes off the floor and take your weight on your heels (try not to stick your bottom out!).  Hold for 3 seconds, then lower back down to the floor with control.  Repeat the move 10 times.

3)  Sit to stand

Sit tall towards the front of your chair, with your feet slightly back (so they’re not directly under your knees).  Lean forward slightly and stand up, using your hands on the chair if you need to.  Step back carefully until your legs touch the chair, then slowly lower yourself back into a seated position.  Repeat the move 10 times.

4)  Heel toe stand

Stand up tall and hold on to the back of your sturdy chair or kitchen sink again, but this time with only one hand.  Put one foot directly in front of the other, so they’re in a straight line, with a small gap between your feet.  Looking ahead, take your hand off the support and balance for 10 seconds.  Move your front foot back and place it hip width apart from your other foot.  Repeat the move for another 10 seconds, this time with the other foot in front.

5)  Heel toe walking

Stand up tall again, this time with one hand placed on your kitchen counter.  Look ahead and then walk 10 steps forward, placing one foot directly in front of the other, so they form a straight line.  Try to maintain a steady walking action, if you can.  Place your feet hip width apart, before turning around and repeating the steps back in the opposite direction.

6)  One leg stand

Stand close to your support and hold on to it with one hand.  Slightly lift one foot off the floor, so you’re now balanced on one leg.  Make sure you keep your standing knee soft and your posture upright.  Hold the position for 10 seconds, before lowering your foot and repeating on the other leg.

There are a great range of other exercises you can try, including those available on the NHS website, which help with your strength and balance.

Preventative support

The following organisations can provide Self Help – Preventative falls advice:

  • Taurus Health Care Social Prescribing - Social prescribing operates alongside existing medical treatments or as a stand-alone service to provide non-medical support within the local community
  • Community Housing – Technology Enabled Care -  Provide a wide range of technologies and products that not only support daily activities but also many medical conditions and disabilities
  • AGE UK – Advice & Support - Age UK provide various services, for example at home services such as gardening, dementia meeting centers, to help older people in their local community
  • HW Fire & Rescue – Support with providing Home Fire Safety Visits maximising the opportunity to help individuals stay safe and independent
  • Simply Limitless - The charity support people of all ages in the community with their mental, social and physical health
  • Living Well for Longer in Worcestershire (WCC) - Encourages over 50s across the County to keep active and well in later life with two new initiatives, Worcestershire’s LifeCurve™ and the Resistance Band exercises
  • Worcestershire Association of Carers – Supporting carers’ who provide any of the following unpaid support to a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental ill-health or substance misuse problems

Advice to stay safe in your home

It is estimated that six out of ten falls happen in the home or garden. There are a number of simple changes you can make in and around your home, to help prevent falls.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help in your home or garden from family, friends or neighbours, especially if you find it difficult to move or lift heavy items or if you struggle with day-to-day tasks, like cleaning.


Garden

  • keep your paths free of moss, leaves and snow / ice in the winter.  Ensure any cracks or uneven spots are safely repaired
  • ensure your doors, garage and garden are well lit, to help you safely get around, especially at night and in the winter
  • If you have steps into your home or garden, consider installing safety rails to help you feel more confident going in and out

Kitchen and bathroom

  • If you’re struggling to reach things in your cupboards or cabinets, move things around, so frequently used items, are easier to reach
  • ensure any spillages are mopped up straight away to prevent wet, slippery floors
  • always use a non-slip mat in the bath or shower and consider installing grab rails in the bathroom for additional safety

Lighting

  • make sure your light bulbs are giving off enough light, to help you safely get around your home
  • don’t walk around your home in the dark, especially if you’re getting up at night to go to the toilet. Turn your bedside light on, keep a landing light on or even consider using a torch, if that’s easier
  • if you have free standing lamps, make sure the wires are safely tucked away, so you don’t trip over them
  • if you don’t already have them, consider installing two way switches on your stairs and landings. You can even have a smoke alarm wired in at the same time, for extra fire safety in the home

Living areas

  • make sure any unnecessary clutter, especially in the hall, landing and doorways, is safely cleared away, otherwise it’s a major trip hazard
  • ensure all rugs have a non-slip mat underneath them and replace them if they’re worn or frayed
  • if you have frayed or loose carpets, consider replacing them or asking someone to securely tack them down for you, so you’re less likely to trip
  • keep all cables and wires tidied away.  You could consider buying a cable tidy box, to help organise and store jumbled wires, especially near the TV, radio or computer
  • don’t keep any items on your stairs, ensure everything is tidied away and correctly stored
  • if you have a pet, they can easily get under your feet, especially if you’re carrying something and don’t notice them. Why not buy them a bright collar or a bell, so you know exactly where they are

Staying safe when you’re out and about

If you’re nervous about falling when you leave home, it can affect your confidence and make you not want to leave the house.  However, there are a few simple steps you can take, to feel happier and safer when you’re out and about.

Take your time

When you’re walking, make sure you take your time and don’t rush. It can help to scan the immediate area for any trip hazards, such as uneven or cracked pavements.

Don’t worry if you think you’re slow and holding others up, they can always walk around you, and your safety is more important.

Raised doorways

Be careful of raised or lipped doorways, when entering or leaving shops, as they’re easy to miss and trip over.  Don’t forget to give your eyes time to adjust to darker conditions inside, especially if it’s a bright day outside.

Pavement changes

Be aware of any changes to the pavement or kerb, especially near pedestrian crossings, as they can often have subtle gradient differences.

Swap your shopping bags

Using conventional shopping bags can obscure your view of the pavement and where you’re walking, so why not consider swapping to a rucksack instead. They’re great for carrying shopping and are better for your back.

Getting the bus

If you’re getting the bus, keep your bus pass or money handy, as it’ll save you rummaging around in your bag and rushing, which will mean you’re ready to safely board the bus when it arrives.

Don’t be afraid to ask the bus driver to wait until you’re seated, before they drive away, as it’s easy to lose your balance when the bus is moving.  Equally, don’t leave your seat to get off the bus, until it has come to a complete stop.

Walking aids

Don’t be embarrassed to use a walking aid, such as a walking stick, if it helps you feel more steady and confident.  If you’re using a walking stick, make sure it’s the right length for you (the top of the handle should be level with your wrist crease, when your arm is down by your side) and it has a new rubber end on the bottom.

If a walking stick isn’t quite meeting your needs, consider a walking or wheeled frame instead, which will give you even greater stability.

Community targeted support

The following organisations can provide community targeted support:

  • Taurus Health Care Social Prescribing - Social prescribing operates alongside existing medical treatments or as a stand-alone service to provide non-medical support within the local community
  • Community Housing – Technology Enabled Care -  Provide a wide range of technologies and products that not only support daily activities but also many medical conditions and disabilities
  • Redditch Borough Council  - Provide support, information and signposting for people within the Redditch Borough Council
  • Bromsgrove District Council - Provide support, information and signposting for people within the Redditch Borough Council
  • Simply Limitless - The charity support people of all ages in the community with their mental, social and physical health
  • Community Services Neighbourhood Team (NHS) - Our goal is to remove boundaries at the point that care is delivered, to create a system where patient interests come first and resources are collectively focused on improving health outcomes, supporting people to stay well and to live independently for as long as they wish
  • Home Instead - Provide private home help for ageing loved ones
  • Worcestershire Association of Carers – Supporting carers’ who provide any of the following unpaid support to a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental ill-health or substance misuse problems

What to do if you have a fallen

If you have a fall in your home, it’s important to try and stay calm and check for any injuries, before following the steps below.

If you’re not hurt and feel strong enough

  • gently roll on to your side, before pushing yourself up on to your hands and knees
  • crawl to a stable piece of furniture, such as a sturdy chair or bed and hold on with both hands, so you can better support yourself
  • slowly slide or raise the foot of your strongest leg forward, so it’s flat on the floor
  • lean forward and slowly push yourself up using your arms and front leg, until you are in a standing position
  • turn yourself around, so you can sit down on the chair or bed and rest for a while, before carrying on with any other activities

If you’re hurt or unable to get up

  • use your lifeline alarm, if you have one
  • if you don’t have one, try to get someone's attention by calling out for help and banging on the wall, floor or radiator.  If you can, crawl to a telephone and dial 999 for an ambulance
  • it’s important to stay warm, so try to reach something you can use to put over yourself, particularly your legs and feet, like a blanket, dressing gown or coat
  • stay as comfortable as possible, but try to keep changing your position, at least once every 30 minutes or so.  You can try rolling from side to side or moving your limbs, if the pain allows, as this will help keep you warm and maintain your circulation
  • if you’re able to reach a drink, it's important to keep drinking, so you stay hydrated
     

Remember: If you’ve had a fall, always let your GP practice know, so they’re aware that this has happened. Your GP might ask you to make an appointment, so they can examine you and check your general health and any medication you may be taking.

Acute reactive support

The following organisations can provide Acute – Reactive Support:

  • Community Housing – Technology Enabled Care -  Provide a wide range of technologies and products that not only support daily activities but also many medical conditions and disabilities
  • AGE UK – Podiatry & Footcare - We provide regular foot care clinics and home visiting for our clients
  • New LifeLine (Redditch BC) – A community alarm service provides peace of mind 24 hours per day, 365 days per year to vulnerable people and their families. Service users are connected directly to our high-tech monitoring centre that is always staffed by our friendly care experts
  • Simply Limitless - The charity support people of all ages in the community with their mental, social and physical health
  • Community Services Neighbourhood Team (NHS) - Our goal is to remove boundaries at the point that care is delivered, to create a system where patient interests come first and resources are collectively focused on improving health outcomes, supporting people to stay well and to live independently for as long as they wish
  • HWHCT – (Community Hospital)
  • NHS Acute Trust – Safer Care

Local organisations offering support around preventing falls can be found on the Community Services Directory and you can find the organisations closest to you by searching on your postcode.

For more information on preventing falls visit: Falls Prevention (NHS choices).

Was this page useful?