Falls, Their Impact and How to Avoid Them
We are all guilty of thinking “it will never happen to me” but the statistics tell a dramatically different story.
Every year 1 in 3 of people aged over 65 will experience a fall, which equals more than 3 million; this rate increases to 1 in 2 for those in communities and over the age of 80. 10-25% of fallers will be seriously injured in the fall and half of those that fall will experience a second fall within 12 months.
Injury due to a fall or multiple falls is the single largest cause of mortality in people aged over 75 in the UK.
Multiple, recurring falls are directly associated with loss of independence, greater rates of hospitalisation and a need for long term care.
Of those that experience a fall that results in a none hip fracture, such as of the wrist, pelvis etc. 50% will subsequently suffer a hip fracture which is the most serious and life threatening injury associated with a fall with 20% dying within 4 months and 30% within a year.
Though a broken hip in itself is a very unpleasant and long lasting injury, what is little known is the devastating side effects and consequences such a fall can have.
Not only are there the risks inherent in surgery, there can be serious complications such as blood clots soon after any operation.
The biggest dangers arise in the three to six months period after the break, with patients at risk of further complications from surgery and infections including pneumonia and blood poisoning.
Research suggests that hip fractures increase the risk of death up to eight years after the injury by more than double with the likelihood of death being 2.78 times higher in the year following the accident.
These are not the only issues that patients experience, many elderly people can suffer from ongoing health problems such as chronic pain and many experience a vastly decreased quality of life with the isolation and loss of independence. Many also find it very difficult to achieve day to day tasks they would previously have taken for granted, such as trips to the shops to buy food and pay bills, possibly leaving them malnourished or cold. There is also the suggestion that the injury can worsen other illnesses be it due to increased frailty or not being able to maintain visits to healthcare professionals.
In the unfortunate event that you have suffered a serious injury an electric powered wheelchair or scooter can also become a vital lifeline bringing back self-reliance, confidence and keeping you in touch with family, friends and your community.
So it is “normal” to experience a fall and there is nothing you can do about it?
No, falls are for the most part completely avoidable. If you have concerns about falling there are many things you can manage within your day to day life that will dramatically change your chances of experiencing a fall.
If you find yourself holding on to walls, furniture or someone else while walking or are struggling to stand when getting up from bed or chairs you should visit a physical therapist who may recommend exercises or a number of different walking aids such as a stick or walker. Do not just buy one, as a poorly fitted aid can be as much of a risk as having no aid at all.
- Have regular eye checkups, with age eyesight can dramatically change which is a major factor in many kinds of accidents. Be aware that certain types of glasses can cause problems, for example bifocals on stairs.
- Manage your medications. Many medications have side effects so be aware of how they may be affecting you. Also you may experience difficulty in remembering your schedule so a planner or automated dispenser may really help. Visit your doctor for regular reviews of all your medications. Also various non-prescription medications can cause dizziness or drowsiness, which can significantly increase the chance of a fall.
- In reality almost half of all falls take place in the home. Get someone to do a walk-through of your house looking for potential issues. Increased lighting throughout the home, particularly in places such a stairwells than can be easily switched on are a must, as are stair rails. In the bathroom grab rails in the bath/shower and by the toilet should be installed in places where they can be used. Also remove any clutter and potential tripping hazards such as carpets and rugs.
- Do not think that you should limit your activity in order to avoid falls. Take as much gentle exercise as you possibly can as this will increase not only muscle strength but improve your overall agility and balance.
Social activity is a significant factor in our overall wellbeing and with Jack Frost taking the land in his icy grasp once again many of you will find the idea of visiting family and friends, or even undertaking that vital shopping trip, a daunting prospect, preferring to retire to the comfort of the hearth. The slippery conditions can be pause for thought, with the potential of a fall always present, and this can leave you feeling isolated and vulnerable. This is where the added stability of an electric wheelchair can really make a difference, not only is it safer than walking, it will also make your trips quicker, meaning less time in the cold, and it carries the shopping for you as well!
Y Connect electric wheelchair is safer than trying to walk, we all know that ice and snow can still be a serious hazard in the winter months, be aware that damp, rotting leaves can also be extremely slippery as can damp grass or muddy patches, cobble stones and manhole covers. We also advise that you exercise caution around puddles and potholes, which could be much deeper than expected and stay away from gutters as they are likely to have deeper water and possible hidden hazards.