Taking a Fall

February 19, 2018| Health and Wellbeing /

We’ve all experienced feeling like we’ve got two left feet and tripped on nothing at all, but who is really at risk of having a fall? Look around, is the floor cluttered or slippery? Can you see where you’re going? If you answered no to either of those questions YOU are at a higher risk of having a fall.

The elderly can also be at higher risk of falls, but they’re not the only ones who need to watch where they’re walking!

Some people with a higher likelihood for falls may have:

  • poor eyesight

  • foot problems or improper footwear

  • poor balance

  • a history of falls

  • had alcohol

  • significant weight loss leading to loss of muscle and strength

Cognitive impairment, prolonged bed rest, health conditions such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease, and some medications can increase a person’s risk of falling, as well as musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis of the knee or hip.
— Matt Ryan, Director of Emergency Medicine, Epworth HealthCare

Tips to prevent falls

There’s many things all people can do to reduce their risk of a fall, such as:

  • Use a cane, or walking frame

  • Wear rubber-soled shoes with better grip

  • Wear low-heeled shoes

  • Keep rooms free from clutter

  • Use a non-slip bathmat in your shower or bath and on the floor beside it

  • Ensure pathways and stairs are well lit

  • Install grab bars and handrails on stairs, near the bathroom and other high risk areas.

  • Move items you use regularly to low, easy to reach places to reduce the amount of times you need to reach or climb.

To improve your balance and prevent falls, you can try simple exercises such as standing on one leg at a time for a minute and slowly increasing the time. You can do circles with your hips to the left and right, without moving your shoulders or feet. Do this a few times in each direction. Another good balance exercise is to stand on your toes for ten seconds, and then rock back on to your heels for ten seconds. You could also consider strength workouts such as tai chi and yoga.
— Matt Ryan, Director of Emergency Medicine, Epworth HealthCare

What to do if you see someone fall

If you see someone else fall over, don’t be in a rush to get them up. Keep an eye out for dangers and tripping hazards as you approach the person and check that they’re responsive and breathing – if they are, carefully put them in the recovery position and keep their airway clear. If they’re not breathing call 000 and begin CPR immediately.

If the person is responsive, try and ask them what happened but don’t stress them if they’re confused. Check for injuries and apply pressure to any bleeding if you can. If you know (or think) that they’ve fallen from a significant height and may have suffered neck or spinal injury, don’t move them. Keep them calm and stay with them until a paramedic arrives. Not all injuries will be obvious and the person may not feel where they are hurt – this is particularly important with diabetics so be especially careful when helping them.

What if you fall?

Catch your breath. Take time to check if you’re injured and move slowly in case something does begin to hurt. If you’re able to get up, lie on your side and bend the leg that’s on top, and lift yourself on to your hands or elbows. Pull yourself towards a sturdy object and kneel with both your hands on that object. Put your strong leg in front, hold on to the object and slowly stand up. Get your balance and very carefully turn and sit down. Take a few minutes to rest and assess your injuries again.

If you feel discomfort, or are unable to get up, try to get help by calling out to someone or phoning 000. If you don’t, try to slide yourself toward a phone or closer to someone who may hear you.

If you’re injured in a fall, it’s so important to seek help, and to keep going with any recommended treatments so you can recover fully. Epworth offer a range of rehabilitation programs and work with people of all ages and abilities to get them back on their feet (or horse).

Rehabilitation is not only great for recovery from injury caused by a fall, but also to improve strength and balance in those most prone to fall, and hopefully avoid falling altogether. You can learn more about Epworth Geelong’s rehabilitation programs here.



Sarah Stanley

Contributor

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