Making small changes in your home, such as using non-slip rugs and mats and ensuring that rooms are well lit, can make a big difference in helping to prevent accidents.
For people over 65, other measures can be taken to help prevent a fall.
Avoiding falls at home
Tips for preventing falls in the home include:
- mopping up spillages straight away
- removing clutter, trailing wires and frayed carpet
- using non-slip mats and rugs
- using high-wattage light bulbs in lamps and torches so that 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 are unable to do safely on your own
- not walking on slippery floors in socks or tights
- not wearing loose-fitting, trailing clothes that might trip you up
- wearing well-fitting shoes that are in good condition and support the ankle
- taking care of your feet by trimming toenails regularly, using moisturiser and seeing a GP or chiropodist about any foot problems
Advice for older people
Some older people may be reluctant to seek help and advice about fall prevention from their GP and other support services because they believe that their concerns will not be taken seriously.
However, all healthcare professionals take falls in older people very seriously because of the serious impact that falls can have. As a result, a great deal of help and support towards preventing falls is available for older people.
If you are caring for an older person, you may find the information and advice about equipment and alarms useful for making their home safer. The charity Age UK also provides information and advice about ways to make household tasks easier and safer.
Read more about what to do in the event of a fall.
Strength and balance training
Research has shown that older people who take part in regular strenagth and balance training are less likely to have a fall.
Many community centres and local gyms offer specialist training programmes for older people. Exercise programmes that can be carried out at home are also available. To find out about the services that are available in your local area, contact your local primary care trust (PCT).
There is also evidence that taking part in regular sessions of tai chi can help to reduce the risk of falls. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that places special emphasis on balance, co-ordination and movement. However, unlike other martial arts, tai chi does not involve physical contact or rapid physical movements, making it an ideal activity for older people.
Read more about how to improve your strength and balance and physical activity guidance for older adults.
Your doctor will need to review your medicines every year, especially if you take four or more medicines a day, to make sure they are still right for you. If you have not had your medicines reviewed for more than one year, please go and see your doctor or practice nurse.
If you are concerned that the side effects of medication that you or your relative is taking may increase the risk of having a fall, you can ask your GP for a medication review.
There may be alternative medications that you or they can use, or the current dose could be lowered. In some cases, it may be possible for the medication to be stopped.
Some types of medication that are used to treat sleep problems, anxiety or depression may also increase the chance of a fall and your GP may recommend gradually stopping them.
If you are concerned that poor vision is increasing your risk of falingl, make an appointment to have a sight test. Find an optician near you.
Not all causes of visual impairment can be treated, but some can. For example, cataracts (cloudy patches in the lens of the eye) can be surgically removed.
Home hazard assessment
If you are 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, you can request a home hazard assessment.
The assessment will involve a healthcare professional with experience in fall prevention visiting your home, or your relative’s, to identify potential hazards and to give advice about 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.
The healthcare professional who carries out the assessment may also recommend getting a personal alarm system so that you or your relative can signal for help in the event of a fall. An alternative would be to keep a mobile phone in close reach so that it is possible to phone for help after having a fall.
Contact your local authority or your GP to find out what help is available in your local area. See the Directgov website for the contact details of your local authority.
Vitamin D and calcium
Vitamin D is used to strengthen muscles and bones and has been shown to help to prevent falls in people who are 65 and over.
Foods high in vitamin D include:
- oily fish
- wholegrain fortified breakfast
- margarines and spreads
- well-cooked eggs
- evaporated milk
Sunlight is also a natural source of vitamin D so spending half an hour each day outside between April and September can also help.
There is some evidence to show that taking daily vitamin D and calcium supplements may help prevent falls in those who have a low level of vitamin D in their blood.
However, the vitamin D and calcium supplements that are found in supermarkets often do not contain a high enough amount to provide full protection. Speak to your GP if you think that you would benefit from having daily supplements. They will be able to prescribe stronger supplements.
Young people with a long-term (chronic) condition that increases their risk of having a fall, such as multiple sclerosis, may also benefit from taking vitamin D and calcium supplements.
Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of a fall. Older people are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.
The effects of alcohol include:
- loss of co-ordination and memory, which can lead to falls and general confusion
- causing the effects of some drugs to be exaggerated, such as diazepam (Valium)
- thinning of the bones, which can occur with heavy drinking
Preventing falls in children can be somewhat of a balancing act. It is natural for parents to want to protect their children, but most parents don't want to stop their children from having fun and taking part in normal childhood activities.
Although it is impossible to prevent all falls, there are steps that you can take to minimise the risk of a fall or to avoid serious damage in the event of a fall.
Read more information and advice about preventing accidents to children in the home.
Only use ladders in a workplace environment for short-term, light work. Any work that requires spending a considerable amount of time at height, or involves heavy lifting, should be carried out on scaffolding or another suitable platform.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides more information about the correct use of ladders in the workplace, including a list of common tasks that involve working at height.
Any work that involves going up onto a roof should also be considered high-risk and therefore high standards of safety are essential.
Read more about carrying out minor roof work, including tips for safe working.