Falls - Prevention 

Prevention 

Moving to music over 60

Moving to music is beneficial to both physical and mental health. It is an especially good way of staying fit and well for the over-60s. Arlene Phillips helps explain why.

Media last reviewed: 06/09/2013

Next review due: 06/09/2015

Exercise and bone health

Making a few changes to your lifestyle can lower your risk of developing osteoporosis

A guide to tai chi

All you need to know about tai chi, including health benefits, different styles and getting started

There are a number of ways you can reduce your chances of having a fall, including making simple changes to your home and doing special exercises.

If you have fallen in the past, making changes to reduce your chances of having a fall can also help you overcome any fear of falling.

Some older people may be reluctant to seek help and advice from their GP and other support services about preventing falls 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 impact they can have on a person's health.

Discuss any falls you have had with your GP and mention if it has had any impact on your health and wellbeing. Your GP can carry out simple balance tests to see if you are at an increased risk of falling in the future. They can also refer you to useful services in your local area.

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 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

Strength and balance training

Doing regular exercises to improve your strength and balance can help reduce your risk of having a fall. This can range from simple activities such as walking and dancing to specialist training programmes. 

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. Ask your GP about training programmes in your area.

There is also evidence that taking part in regular tai chi sessions can help reduce the risk of falls. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that places special emphasis on balance, co-ordination and movement.

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 balance exercises for older people and physical activity guidance for older adults.

Medication review

If you are taking long-term medication, your GP will review your medicines every year to make sure they are still right for you, especially if you are taking four or more medicines a day. 

Your GP may recommend alternative medications or lower doses if they feel the side effects may increase your chances of having a fall. In some cases, it may be possible for the medication to be stopped.

You should see your practice nurse or GP if you have not had your medicines reviewed for more than one year, or if you are concerned the medications you or a relative are taking may increase the risk of falling.

Sight tests

If you are concerned that poor vision (even when wearing glasses) is increasing your risk of having a fall, make an appointment to have a sight test. Find an optician near you.

Not all visual problems can be treated, but some can. For example, cataracts (cloudy patches in the lens of the eye) can be surgically removed.

Home hazard assessment

You can request a 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.

The assessment will involve a healthcare professional with experience in fall prevention visiting your or your relative's home to identify potential hazards and 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 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. You can find your local authority on the GOV.UK website.

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can lead to loss of co-ordination and exaggerate the effects of some medicines. This can significantly increase the risk of a fall, particularly in older people.

Avoiding alcohol or reducing the amount you drink can help reduce your chances of having a fall. Avoiding alcohol can also reduce your risk of having a more serious fall, as excessive drinking can contribute to the development of osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones).

Page last reviewed: 09/07/2013

Next review due: 09/07/2015

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 144 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

The importance of exercise for the elderly

How exercise can help older people stay healthy, energetic and independent well into old age

Exercises for older people

Exercises for older people

This interactive and printable guide provides step-by-step instructions for exercises focusing on strength, flexibility and balance.

Find and choose services for Falls