Falls information for Outpatients

A fall is defined as an event which causes a person to, unintentionally, rest on the ground or other lower level.

Risk of falling increases with age, one third of people aged above 65 years and half of people above 80 years old has experience of at least one fall per year. Falling is more common in women than men. Someone who has already had a fall is more likely to fall again in the future.

Why do falls happen?

There can be many reasons why falls happen. In fact, most falls will have more than one factor contributing to them.

Falls become more common as we age and having one makes you more likely to experience a fall again, unless the causes are eliminated or minimised.

Below are some of the common causes:

  • Environment – unsafe environment can put you at a higher risk of falls. This includes hazards such as uneven, icy, slippery floor, rugs, exposed cables and stairs, among others.
  • Medications – some of the medications can make you more likely to experience falls. They can make you feel dizzy, drowsy and some of them can make your blood pressure low.
  • Health conditions – poor vision, hearing problems, low blood pressure, leg weakness, low blood sugar, poor balance, cognitive impairment, depression, alcohol misuse, arthritis, diabetes, incontinence, stroke, syncope, or Parkinson’s disease.

What are the risks associated with falls?

Most falls end up only causing minor injuries, but sometimes they can result in a more significant injury, such as broken bones (hip fracture) and head injury, from which it may be difficult to recover. Falling and fear of falling can make older people lose confidence in going about their day to day activities and may affect their independence.

What to do if you experience a fall

  • Try to stay calm
  • Do not rush to get up, but rather find a stable object that you can use to steady yourself to slowly get up
  • Have a seat or lie down and take it easy before getting on with your usual activities
  • If you are alone and are having trouble getting up, try shouting for help, using your phone or a personal alarm if you have one
  • Let your doctor know about a fall or seek help urgently if you got injured

Can falls be prevented?

The risk of falls can be minimised by addressing the causes that are previously listed. If you are experiencing falls, you should see your doctor so that they can examine you, check your blood pressure, review your medications and do any other investigations as appropriate.

Things you can do to prevent falls

  • Diet – it is necessary for you to obtain energy from your diet in order to be strong enough to move around. Ensure you eat regularly, even if it is small meals. Ideally, try to have a balanced diet. Having vitamin D supplements and a calcium rich diet also offers protection for your bones and muscle strength.
  • Staying hydrated – make sure you drink fluids throughout the day and stay hydrated. Unless you have been advised to restrict your fluid intake, aim to drink approximately 2 litres (4 pints) of fluid a day, preferably water. It is best if you avoid alcohol.
  • Staying active – having a healthy amount of activity within your capabilities makes your body stronger. If possible doing small exercises within your capabilities improves your muscle strength.
  • Removing hazards at home – you can examine the environment at home to see if there are some hazards you can remove, such as wires, rugs or clutter. Make sure you have a good source of light in all the rooms. If you need any modification (bathroom or stairs) in your home to prevent falls, please inform your GP to arrange therapist and social services assessment.
  • Appropriate footwear – you should wear shoes that are comfortable and offer you stability. Check your feet regularly and seek help if you have any pain, soreness or redness.
  • Regular eye checks – ensure you get those as poor eyesight can make you much more prone to falls. Get eye checks regularly even if you do not think your vision has worsened and get help promptly if your vision deteriorates.
  • Medications – Some medications make you feel dizzy, drowsy and some of them can make your blood pressure low. If you feel the above symptoms, please inform your GP to review your medications.
  • Good Balance – Take your time and stay focused with what you are doing – do not rush. Avoid sudden movement or change of direction when walking. Avoid standing for too long. Use suitable walking aids prescribed and adjusted for you by the therapist. Follow any exercise program given to you to help your balance and strength by the therapist.