Watch your step! Tips and advice to help avoid falls this winter
Anyone can have a fall or trip and hurt themselves.
In the winter trips and falls are more common due to wintry conditions outdoors. And when we are cooped up indoors, it’s important to take steps to reduce our risk of falling by lighting walkways and wearing shoes and slippers with good grip.
Reducing falls and fractures is important for maintaining our health and wellbeing, and for older people it plays an important role in helping to remain independent at home.
Falls become more common and can be more serious as we age. The tips within this article introduce ways to help you improve your strength and stability and reduce your risk of falling. This will support you to remain strong and independent within your own home.
According to Falls guidance published by Public Health England, unaddressed fall hazards in the home are estimated to cost the NHS £435million annually, and falls are a significant factor in the reduced quality of life for older people in particular.
Here are some handy tips to keep you on your toes and out of hospital this winter by helping you to prevent having a fall.
Be prepared – build up your strength, balance, and coordination
- Sitting down for long stretches can leave you feeling cold and cause your muscles to stiffen up. Be sure to get up and move around regularly, at least once every hour. While you’re sitting, you can do neck and ankle rolls, arm and leg lifts to keep your blood flowing – and it’ll help keep you warmer, too
- Start doing falls prevention exercises now – it’s never too early or too late to get started! Doing gentle exercises to improve strength and balance will help you to stay strong and supple. Active Norfolk has a programme of Falls Prevention exercises that can be used to help build up your strength to prevent falls, as well as links to appropriate activities you can do at home to aid recovery if you’ve had a fall. Find out more at https://www.activenorfolk.org/falls-prevention
- Moderate alcohol consumption as it can make you unsteady on your feet
Top tips to prevent a fall outdoors
- Wear warm socks and thick-soled shoes with a good grip.
- Layer up clothes and wear a hat when you go outside so you feel warm. Lots of thin layers will help you to keep in body heat better than one bulky layer.
- It’s important to see where you’re going. Use a torch if it’s dark, headtorches free up your hands and may help you to feel more stable. And make sure you keep up to date with your eye checks.
- Be aware of any medications you’re taking that may affect your balance. You can speak to your doctor or GP for advice about your prescriptions.
Reduce trip hazards in your home
- Moderate alcohol consumption – this is important within the home, too!
- Wear slip-resistant shoes indoors and replace worn slippers.
- Clear clutter, trailing wires, and replace frayed carpet. Use non-slip mats and rugs where possible, and immediately mop up spillages to stop you slipping on them later
- Keep all rooms, passages and staircases well lit. If you don’t want to leave the lights on, keep a torch handy on a window ledge, or get a pocket torch you can keep in the pocket of your housecoat or sweater
- Ask for help to do things you may be unable to do safely on your own, such as any task that require you to stretch and reach over your head (e.g., changing a lightbulb, cleaning or dusting high up, etc)
Get help and advice if you’re recovering from a fall
If you’ve had a fall recently and are starting your recovery process, there are local services that can you help you to rebuild your strength and confidence.
Norfolk Community Health & Care offers a county-wide falls service that provides home-based assessment to identify the factors and risks, which may contribute to a person’s falls. Find out more about this Community Nursing and Therapy service.
Stop Falling, Start Living is a digital channel set up by NCH&C which offers falls prevention videos and information to help people understand the risk of falls, and features a range of falls prevention videos you can watch and follow along at home.
You can find more tips and advice on reducing or preventing falls, plus links to exercises to help you develop your strength and balance at www.nhs.uk/conditions/falls/