How to Reduce Falls at Home

By: Mr Low Jing Yang, Pharmacist at Unity Jurong Point

First seen in Lifestyle Magazine (September 2013), pg 87. This article is an unbreached version of the printed edition.

Introduction

They say ĎHome is the safest place to beí, but is this true? Do you know that even the home can be a dangerous place to live in? Based on WHO (World Health Organization) statistics, an estimated 424000 fatal falls occur every year in homes. This shows the importance of preventing such unwanted accidents at home. For patients who had experienced falls before, it is even more important to prevent falling again because it could deteriorate the condition. There are various risk factors and ways to prevent falls at home and below are a few that are listed:

Risk factor 1: Age

Age is the highest risk factor for falls. Statistics have shown that adults over 65 years of age have the highest number of fatal falls. This could be due to several reasons such as weakness in the limbs and osteoporosis which is a disease in the bones whereby there is a decrease of bone density, leading to an increase risk of fracture. In these patients, falling can lead to serious health consequences such as immobility.

How to prevent: There isnít a way to prevent ageing but you can take supplements such as calcium and glucosamine to help with bone and joint health. Calcium helps to strengthen the bones and may be given together with vitamin D to help in its absorption. Glucosamine helps to maintain the cartilage, leading to healthier joints and is frequently used in people who suffer from osteoarthritis (pain in the joints) to prevent and relieve the pain.

Age is the highest risk factor for falls. Statistics have shown that adults over 65 years of age have the highest number of fatal falls. This could be due to several reasons such as weakness in the limbs and osteoporosis which is a disease in the bones whereby there is a decrease of bone density, leading to an increase risk of fracture. In these patients, falling can lead to serious health consequences such as immobility.

How to prevent: There isnít a way to prevent ageing but you can take supplements such as calcium and glucosamine to help with bone and joint health. Calcium helps to strengthen the bones and may be given together with vitamin D to help in its absorption. Glucosamine helps to maintain the cartilage, leading to healthier joints and is frequently used in people who suffer from osteoarthritis (pain in the joints) to prevent and relieve the pain.

Risk factor 2: Patients on medications

There are certain medications such as antihistamines indicated for allergies which can have side effects like causing drowsiness and affecting mental alertness. Other medications like such as anti-psychotics and anti-depressants can also affect mental alertness. Medications to control high blood pressure might also cause dizziness as a side effect.

How to prevent: Consult your doctor or pharmacist on the side effects of the medications that you are taking so as to take precautions against such accidents from happening. You can also discuss the dosage of the medication to make sure that the optimal dose is used for the condition. Also, minimize the intake of alcohol because it can cause interactions with a lot of medications and worsen side effects especially drowsiness.

Risk factor 3: Lack of exercise

Do you know how many benefits there are in exercising? Firstly, it helps in weight management. Secondly, it helps to decrease risk of having cardio diseases. Thirdly, it helps to improve muscle strength and overall helps in improving mental alertness and energy levels. Exercise can help in fall prevention because having more strength in muscles means a lesser risk of falling due to weakness in limbs. Improved mental alertness indicates that you are more aware and careful of your surroundings.

How to prevent: Exercise regularly at least 150 minutes per week. Sometimes, we get idle and not exercise. However, even at home we can do some simple exercise such as sit ups or simple weight lifting. Walking can be another viable option rather than no exercise at all.

Risk factor 4: Environmental factors

Environmental factors include wet floors, poor lighting, and objects left on the floor which can contribute to falling incidents at home. These risk factors should be identified and corrected in order to prevent falls.

How to prevent:

For bathrooms: Leave the door open after a shower to let the water on the floor dry quicker. You can also put anti-slip mats on the floor to prevent slipping.

For living rooms: Use light bulbs that are bright enough and if possible, use a power saving light bulb to conserve energy as well. Always ensure that there isnít any objects left lying around on the floor so that you wonít trip over it.

For bedrooms: Put a lamp beside your bed so that if needed, you can easily reach and switch on the lamp to see more clearly in the dark. There should be minimal things in your room to prevent bumping into things easily.

Others: Wear non slip good friction shoes to reduce chances of slipping. You can also put grab bars in the bathroom and/or living room, especially if you have elderly or family members who have difficulty walking at home.

Identifying risk factors and utilising corresponding prevention tips can help to avoid falls. This is especially true for falls at home which can be prevented with slight changes to home utilities and environment. Ultimately, preventing falls can help to improve the quality of life of the patients and their family, as well as avoid incurring medical costs in treating injuries from falls. Hence, families with elderly or patients prone to falls are encouraged to take fall prevention measures.