Falls are a major health problem for many older Australians, with approximately 30% of adults over 65 years of age experiencing at least one fall per year. Some falls result in a fractured hip, shoulder, or wrist, even an extended stay in hospital and further rehabilitation. A fall can have a significant impact on your life.
While falls may be common, the risk of falling can be minimised. Physiotherapists (physios) and occupational therapists (OTs) often work together in the hospital setting, particularly after someone has had a fall, and to help them return home in a better condition and a safer environment to mitigate further falls.
OTs and physios also work together with someone who is at risk of falling to help reduce the risks before they end up in hospital with a post-fall injury.
There are many reasons people fall, including muscle weakness, dizziness, poor sensation in the legs and feet, and poor eyesight, and a cluttered environment, just to name a few.
As we grow older our environments and the places, we live often do not change with our changing mobility needs. These environments can then become risk factors for falling. For example, a family home that has not changed in structure for many years as the owners’ physical needs have changed. OTs are the ideal health professionals to help with this problem. An OT will assess a person’s environment and recommend changes to help make the environment a safer place to be.
Additionally, as we grow older, we lose the strength and power of our limb muscles – about 10% a decade from 40 onwards. Addressing this provides a protective factor against falls.
Your muscles provide you with the limb strength and power to stand and move, as well as providing the control and strength required to remain balanced. Weak muscles reduce your ability to stay upright and react to walking on uneven surfaces or being bumped by other people or obstacles.
As a physio, I can recommend two exercises that will help build leg strength and reduce your risk of falling.
1. Sit to Stand
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your arms in front of your chest so you are not tempted to push off of your thighs for momentum.
- Stand up, then slowly sit back down and repeat a number of times.
- If this is too difficult push off from the chair using your arms. As you improve try to cross your arms in front of your chest
2. Standing Marching
- Hold on to a solid object for balance.
- March on the spot, bending alternate knees up towards your chest.
- Make sure you keep your body straight throughout the movement.
Hope this helps.