Falls are a common problem and can result in serious health concerns, especially for older people. A fall can lead to physical and psychological consequences including, but not limited to, serious injuries like broken bones or head injuries, a fear of falling, reduced confidence to participate in normal daily activities leading to poor quality of life, and an overall reduction in physical activity. Falls not only impact the person who they happen to, but also family and caregivers. Those who are part of the patient’s support network can become stressed due to the additional demand and support required following a fall.
Incidence of falls
Falls occur more commonly in older people. Statistics suggest that one in three people over the age of 65 and one in two people over the age of 80 are at risk of a fall that will lead to a serious injury. The injuries include broken wrists, fractured hips leading to hip replacements, and serious head or neck injuries. Although most fall-related injuries, such as bruising, lacerations and sprains, are less serious, they can still cause pain, reduced function, and significant healthcare costs. Women are more likely to have a fall compared to men and females are more likely to be admitted to hospital following a fall. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2015-16 over 100 000 people were hospitalised due to a fall – that equates to 273 people every day! Due to our growing aging population, that figure is projected to have increased over the last five years.
There are many factors that contribute to an individual’s risk of falling. Unfortunately, as part of the aging process, the number of risk factors increase as we get older. The risk factors that have a high association with falls include decreased muscle strength, impaired balance, reduced coordination, and overall reduced physical activity. Other risk factors include unsafe walking patterns, a history of falls, environmental obstacles like trip hazards, postural instability, reduced sensation of lower limbs, cognitive impairment, long hospital visits/stays, impaired vision, certain medications especially when used in combination, decreased walking speed, unsupportive/unstable footwear, alcohol consumption, and incontinence. Although numerous, the good news is that many of these risk factors are modifiable and can successfully be addressed by a physiotherapist.
Physiotherapists are highly skilled at assessing a patient’s balance and falls risk, and are able to effectively reduce the risk of a patient having a fall through exercise. There is strong evidence to suggest that falls can be prevented in older people through well-designed and planned exercise program. Exercise helps maintain strength and balance, in turn reducing the rate of falls and ensuring older people are staying independent for longer. Group exercise programs are a good option for this. There are also other things you can do aside from exercise to negate your falls risk. Key to this, is to improve your safety around the home and by wearing well-fitting footwear with a backing and good grip. Another good option, should you have a fall, is to wear a personal safety alarm so that if you are unable to get up, you can still seek help.
Strength and balance classes at OnePointHealth
At OnePointHealth, we run group exercise classes that focus on improving strength and balance. The class aims to assist in preventing falls and fall-related injuries by improving balance, strength, and cardiovascular fitness. Falls prevention classes are run at OnePointHealth Penrith by our Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 am. Our classes are flexible and can accommodate the individual’s needs, circumstances, and interests. If you have a history of falls, feel like your balance is not as good as it used to be, or you would like to prevent yourself from having a fall, please contact us to book you into the class.