Minimising your loved ones' risk of falls

Are your parents getting older and more prone to falling? Here are some tips to help them safely manage daily life.

Ageing can increase the risk of falls for a number of different reasons. However, by encouraging your parents to stay active, equipping them with the right tools and helping them manage their conditions and medication, you can help them feel steadier on their feet.

With age, your parents’ muscles may become weaker, and their balance, vision and reaction times may not be as good as they used to be. Other factors that can contribute to falls include medical conditions, prescription drugs and alcohol.

Medical conditions

Medical conditions like those below are usually more common in older people and can increase their risk of falls: 
  • low blood pressure 
  • vision problems 
  • arthritis 
  • foot problems such as bunions 
  • loss of feeling in the feet (sometimes caused by diabetes) 
  • stroke 
  • parkinson’s disease 
  • dementia 
  • epilepsy 
If your parents have a medical condition that may increase their fall risk and you notice they’re dizzy, have problems with their feet or feel unsteady, speak to their doctor.

Medication  

Older people are often more sensitive to the effects of medication, and some medication can cause drowsiness, dizziness or blurred vision. Common culprits include: 
  • prescription drugs 
  • sleeping tablets
  • medicine for allergies
  • cold and flu drugs containing antihistamines 
  • painkillers, especially strong kinds
If you think you parents’ medication might be increasing their risk of a fall speak to their doctor or pharmacist.
Elderly people exercising

How can you help prevent falls?

It is important to remember that there are many ways you can help your parents feel safer on their feet. Implementing these measures as early as possible is a good way to help support them stay independent for longer.

1. Encourage your parents to stay active
Physical activity helps maintain strong muscles and good balance. Your loved one should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, and combine activities like walking, swimming and dancing with strength-training exercise with weights. Both will help to improve bone strength, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and their risk of breaking a bone. Speak to your parents’ doctor for advice on suitable exercises.

2. Encourage them to join a local program
Contact your local council to find out about activities in your area. Look for exercise programs that are specifically for older people. Tai chi is a great example of a form of exercise that can help improve balance.

3. Equip them with the right tools
Making the home safer is really important. Remove things that are easy to trip over, like rugs or clothing. Install handrails, use non-slip mats in the bathroom and improve lighting. Ensure your parents wear well-fitting shoes inside and outside the house.  

4. Help them manage their conditions and medication
Speak to your parents' doctor regularly about any medication your parents are taking. The body's reaction to certain medication can change over time, and certain combinations can cause dizziness or drowsiness, and therefore falls.

5. Have their vision checked 
Have your parents’ eyes checked regularly and make sure your parents are careful on steps if they wear bifocals or multi-focals, as they can make it harder for them to judge where to put their feet.
 

With appropriate fall prevention measures like exercise or medication management, you can minimise your parents’ risk of falling, keeping them safe and active well into their older years. Always consult your doctor if you think you parents might be increasing their risk of a fall.

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