A recent study, carried out by researchers from the Institute of Injury Prevention and Control, at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, has found tai chi to be an effective method of reducing the incidence of falls in older people. The study recruited 368 people over the age of 60, with a previous history of falls and provided one group with a 24-week course of leg strengthening exercises from a physiotherapist, whilst the other group undertook weekly tai chi classes for the same period.
Analysis of the results showed that the group attending the tai chi classes had a 50% lower incidence of falls than the physiotherapist group, when compared 12 months later. Falls remain one of the leading causes of injuries amongst older people and any measures to reduce their frequency and severity should be welcomed. Read on to find out about the practical steps you can take to reduce the risk of falls amongst the people in your care.
Falls and associated fractures amongst older people account for up to 4 million hospital bed days per year, at a total cost of around £2 billion. Following a fall, an older person has a 50% chance of permanently impaired mobility and mortality statistics suggest a 10% probability of dying within 12 months.
5 Steps to Help Your Service Users Reduce their Risk of Falls
- Eye testing. Encourage your service users to have a vision check. A decrease in visual ability and perception can increase the risk of falls and impaired vision can cause people to trip over items they can’t see. Ensure that all of your service users’ vision has been checked recently and that they are using glasses as prescribed by their optician.
- Medication review. Knowing the side effects of medication can help increase awareness of the risk of falls. If you are concerned about falls, ask the GP to carry out a medication review to check whether they can contribute to dizziness or decreased balance. The GP may be able to substitute a medication, with an alternative, if the existing prescription is causing problems.
- Footwear. Ensure your service users wear footwear that is well-fitting and supportive. Poorly fitting footwear is a major contributor to falls.
- Exercise. Encourage regular exercise and activity appropriate to the person’s abilities. This may incorporate walking, seated exercise, specific strengthening exercises, or more unusual approaches such as the tai chi described earlier.
- Posture. Remind your service users to be aware of their posture and balance. Steps such as trying to maintain weight over the ankles, not leaning too far forward or back and keeping feet in a wide stance while standing can all significantly reduce the risk of falls.