Losing balance and confidence in walking is a common problem as we get older. If a parent reaches the point where they start falling, it becomes a real worry—especially if they don’t live with us.
My 95 year old mother had four falls at home within a couple of months. The last one was the most serious. She hit her head and ribs as she fell and my father had to call an ambulance. The paramedics, who arrived within 20 mins, were fantastic. They checked her thoroughly, reassuring her and giving her pain killers before moving her. At hospital the scans and x-rays found no serious injuries – thankfully! But they did have concerns about her ability to move around safely at home. Once she was ready for discharge, which took about three hours, she was assessed by a specialist nurse and given immediate advice on how to walk and turn without losing her balance. My father and I listened carefully so we could repeat the advice once she was back at home as her memory lapses sometimes!
Although my mother was shaken by her experience, she was desperate to go home. Luckily the nurse felt she was safe enough to go home, but she also referred her to the local Falls Prevention Team based within the local authority. The team visited within 48 hours. They assessed my parents’ home, made suggestions and provided equipment, including a grab frame on the bed so she could steady herself as she got out. They also provided one for my father as he struggles getting out sometimes as well! All the equipment was provided free of charge and my parents now have a direct contact number to ask for help again if they need it. We are all feeling reassured and mum is now about to start an eight week course which will give her exercises and techniques to help prevent any further falls.
Tips for Preventing Falls
If you have any concerns about your parent falling, you or they can request a Home Hazard Assessment to see what steps can be taken to reduce the chances of it happening. The GP or local authority can provide details of what support is available in your area and who to contact.
These steps can help as well:
- immediately mopping up spillages
- removing clutter, trailing wires and frayed carpet
- using non-slip mats and rugs
- using high-wattage light bulbs in lamps and torches, so they can see clearly
- organising the home so that climbing, stretching and bending are kept to a minimum, and to avoid bumping into things
- getting help to do things that they are unable to do safely on their own
- not walking on slippery floors in socks or tights
- not wearing loose-fitting, trailing clothes that might trip them up
- wearing well-fitting shoes that are in good condition and support the ankle
- taking care of your feet by trimming toenails regularly and seeing a GP or chiropodist about any foot problems
You may find useful:
NHS Choices/Falls (www.nhs.uk/falls.prevention)
Age UK Falls Prevention (www.ageuk.org.uk/falls-prevention/)