Falls! For some, the word has no impact, while for others more acquainted with the potentially serious implications, it is a word that raises the eyebrows and even the heart rate. The first group is likely to have had no connection with anyone that has fallen and hurt themselves. The second class however, is one who has either fallen themselves or knows of someone who has suffered at the hands of a fall.

So, what exactly are we referring to when we say “falls”? And what does it even matter? To put it simply, falls are defined as unexpected events which leave a person on the ground or on a lower level than before the event. It matters because of the potential significant consequences of a fall, especially for the frail and most at-risk populations.

A fall for a child, healthy adolescent or an adult is not usually a big deal. We expect children to fall as they learn to walk and run and it takes time to develop coordination. We also know that accidents happen, which healthy adults and adolescents usually easily recover from. For those who are much older and have much less ability to heal afterwards, the results of a fall can be much more serious. Elderly people tend to have more frail bones, much less ability to balance, poorer eyesight and slower reaction time. These factors, along with others, can lead to much more severe falls. These falls can leave a person that was previously completely independent, incapacitated.

The statistics are astounding, especially when we consider that majority of falls can be prevented.  Falls cause more deaths in Australia than motor-vehicle accidents. In fact, falls are responsible for 1/3 of deaths related to unintentional injury and are the single biggest cause of injury-related hospital admissions. Additionally, the survival rate within 6 months for people who take >1hour to rise after falling is only 50%, even if there was no injury!

With these facts in mind, it’s important that we take what steps we can in order to prevent falls. Here are just a few of the largest and more common modifiable risk factors, and some suggestions to minimise their potential impact at home:

Internal modifiable factors that you or a loved one may have:

  • More than 4 medications
    • Speak to your doctor about minimising your medications
    • DO NOT reduce your medications without consulting your GP first
  • Muscle weakness / balance problems
    • See your podiatrist for an at home exercise-based falls prevention program
    • Take up an exercise class (see your GP about referral to exercise physiologist)
    • See your GP about whether you need any assistance with ambulation
  • Foot pain / problems
    • See your podiatrist
  • Fear of falling
    • Take a falls prevention class (see your podiatrist or GP)
    • See your podiatrist about having a comprehensive falls risk assessment
    • See your GP about tests for conditions that increase your risk of falls
    • See your GP about medications changes that can reduce your risk
  • Visual impairment
    • See your GP / optometrist about further management

External modifiable factors:    

  • Footwear
    • Talk to your podiatrist about different options
  • Poor in-house lighting
    • Avoid florescent globes and dull filament globes
      • Consider changing to bright LED globes (also energy efficient)
    • Uneven flooring (inc. all rugs and high / uneven stairs)
      • Consider removing rugs and covering uneven floor edgings
      • Change to more even surfaces
    • Inadequate handrails / assistance
      • Ensure appropriate hand rails are in place in bathrooms and stairs or speak to GP about having an in-home assessment from an Occupational Therapist
      • Exercise caution when using stairs
      • Consider using a chair in the shower if having difficulty
      • Remove high hobs from bathroom areas
    • Pets
      • Contain pets to specific areas as to ensure no surprises
      • If purchasing a pet, consider a more placid breed
    • Small children
      • Educate children and elderly people about the implications of children and falls and exercise caution when they are around
    • Clutter
      • Remove any potential trip hazards around your home

If you’ve had a fall, are worried about falling, or know someone who has had a fall and you are worried about their risk of falling again, get in touch with us at Riverside Podiatry (02) 4323 9100.
Its not worth the wait, we can get you back on your feet and feeling confident in no time!