Date Published: 2 March 2015

Manchester University experts advise on how to prevent falls

Health News from Manchester, England (UK).
More news from or about Manchester.
See also books about Manchester.

Dr Helen Hawley-Hague of Manchester University (England, UK) is convinced that many of the falls experienced by older people, especially during the cold winter months, can be avoided.

This list of 10 ways to reduce the risk of falls is included as part of the 'Experts' advice for preventing a fall this winter' in the university website's press area:

  1. Stay active and keep fit using simple exercises or attending classes run by your local authorities and health services
  2. See your GP to get a prescribed exercise plan
  3. You can also see you GP or local authority to get a risk assessment done on your home
  4. Keep moving around. Research suggests that you should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week, in bouts of 10 minutes. But check with your GP if you have any existing conditions.
  5. Good sturdy shoes will help you keep you balance and tucking in loose clothes prevents them catching on things.
  6. Get your eyes tested regularly. This will help you keep your balance and spot trip hazards.
  7. People in care homes should have an activity plan. Speak to a member of staff to get this updated if you're not feeling the benefit.
  8. Some medications can increase your risk of falling. Check with your GP and adjust your behaviour as a result.
  9. It is possible to buy protectors to shield your hips if you're unlucky enough to fall.
  10. Know your limits! If it's cold or icy, avoid long walks on your own. Instead, you could get someone to accompany you or drive.

According to the statement from Manchester University, falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries among older people. It is estimated that approximately 33% of people aged over 65 years and over 50% of people aged over 80 years will experience a 'fall' each year. Apart from the physical effects of losing one's balance and falling down, the fear of falling can itself hamper people's sense of confidence and independence. That is a major welfare concern because independence has many benefits both for the older people themselves and for their families, friends and carers.

Dr Hawley-Hague commented:

" The mental and physical health benefits of being independent in the home are enormous, yet a fear of falling can prevent many people from carrying out activities.
_ Living with a fear of falling can create a lot of worry to family members, friends and ourselves ? resulting in a lot of distress. A fear of falling can also lead to us dropping out of activities and staying at home more. This can result in a loss of confidence and feelings of boredom, frustration and loneliness

In addition to offering simple advice such as the 10 tips to reduce the risk of falls (above), health researchers and providers are also investigating technological approachs, such as an app for smart phones which automatically sends a text when someone has fallen. This app is currently being trialled in Norway by a group of older people who are residents in care homes. One of them said:

" It would make me feel safe to get a phone call from a person who asks what has happened. One who is not so far away."

As included in the list above, Dr Hawley-Hague encourages older people to take appropriate exercise, with advice and support if necessary. She said:

" Keeping fit is even more important as you get older. Simple exercises and getting advice can stop you falling and remove a lot of worry from your life."

Source: Manchester University, England (UK)

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