As we get older, physical changes and health conditions - and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions - make falls more likely. Sight loss also increases the risk of falling.
However, by following our top 10 tips you are taking charge of your situation. Don't let fear of falling rule your life!
Follow our top 10 tips to avoid falls
Reduce your risk of having a fall with these simple fall prevention measures:
- Talk to your GP about the risk of falls. Especially if you're taking medication.
- Keep moving. Gentle exercise helps build strength and reduces the risk of falls.
- Look after your feet. Report any foot pain or loss of sensation to your GP or nurse.
- Wear sensible shoes. Well-fitting, non-slip shoes are a simple, practical way to reduce falls.
- Remove home hazards. Half of all falls happen at home, remove obstacles and ensure your home is trip-free!
- Make things brighter by improving your lighting. As we get older we need a higher level of lighting - a small change can make a big difference.
- Make things bolder. Colour contrast, especially on edges and doors, can help you get around safely.
- Use assistive devices. The right assistive device can help you get out and about and avoid trips and falls.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Keeping your strength up helps maintain your balance and reduce falls.
- Stop smoking. Smoking leads to weaker bones, as well as being bad for your health generally.
Begin your fall prevention plan today
The ten tips in this section cover a range of topics, some of which may relate more to people who are older (65 and beyond). If not all the information is relevant to you now, it may become more relevant in the future. Taking positive steps can make you feel more confident:
1. Make an appointment with your doctor (GP)
- If you routinely take four or more prescribed medications per day this may increase your risk of having a fall. Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, and bring them with you to the appointment.
- Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling.
- Once you have had one fall, you are more likely to have another one. So it is important that you tell someone and talk to your GP. If you have fallen before, it might be helpful to write down the details, including when, where and how you fell.
- Be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall prevention strategies.
- Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falling. Talk to your GP about any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk. Consider asking your doctor to check your blood pressure and evaluate your muscle strength, balance and walking style (gait).
2. Keep moving
- Exercise is a very important factor in retaining our strength and balance as we get older.
- With your doctor's okay, consider activities such as walking, swimming, water workouts or Tai chi - a gentle exercise that involves slow and graceful dance-like movements. You can keep track of your exercise with a talking pedometer - take a look in our online shop.
- If you avoid physical activity because you're afraid it will make a fall more likely, tell your doctor. He or she may recommend exercise programs or refer you to a physical therapist or local service that offers exercise classes.
3. Look after your feet
- Foot problems can stop you getting out and about. They can also affect your balance and increase your risk of falling. So it's important to report problems such as foot pain or any decreased sensation in your feet to your GP or practice nurse.
- Keep your toenails short. If you find reaching down to cut your toenails difficult, try asking a family member for help. If this is not an option, some local Age UK / Age Concern charities offer a toenail-cutting service. There may be a charge for this.
- Consider visiting a podiatrist periodically. He or she will assess your feet and will offer appropriate help to make your feet more comfortable such as removal of dry skin from heels.
- If you have diabetes the NHS will review the condition of your feet as part of your routine monitoring visits. If you are not aware of the extent of NHS foot care services available in your area ask your doctor or practice nurse.
4. Wear sensible shoes
Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall prevention plan. High heels, open-back footwear, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. So can walking in your socks, tights or stocking feet. Instead:
- Have your feet measured each time you buy shoes, since foot size can change.
- Buy properly fitting, sturdy shoes with non-slip soles.
- Avoid shoes with extra-thick soles.
- Choose lace-up shoes instead of slip-ons, and keep the laces tied.
- Consider attaching snow and ice shoe grips to your shoes in icy or snowy conditions - we sell these in our online shop.
- Select footwear with fabric fasteners if you have trouble tying laces.
5. Remove home hazards
Take a look around your home. Your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallway and stairway may be filled with hazards. To make your home safer:
- Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
- Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
- Secure loose rugs with double-sided tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing or remove loose rugs from your home.
- Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
- Ask family and friends to either leave room doors fully open or closed (never ajar) and to close cupboard doors and drawers when unattended.
- Store clothes, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
- Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
- Use non-slip floor wax if such a product is required.
- Use non-slip mats in your bath or shower.
- Also see the adapting your home section of our website.
6. Make things brighter - improve your lighting
Simple changes can make a difference. Over 50 per cent of falls happen in the home. A person who is 60 years old needs three times more light than a 20 year old.
Make sure you have good lighting, especially in areas such as the hall, stairs, kitchens and bathrooms. Make sure the lighting is as even as possible throughout each room, free from glare, and easy for you to access:
- Place a lamp within reach of your bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
- Make clear paths to any light switches that aren't near room entrances.
- Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
- Store torches in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.
- Browse the lighting section of our online shop.
As a blind or partially sighted person you can request a community care assessment from your local Social Services department. As part of this an assessment of lighting in your home should be conducted. As a result some improvements to lighting in your home may be offered.
We have also worked with Thomas Pocklington Trust to produce a free guide to improving the lighting in your home, visit our lighting page to download the guide.
7. Make things bolder
For many people the use of good colour and tone contrast makes things easier to see.
- Try to keep patterns to a minimum, especially in carpeting.
- Walls should be finished in pale tones with all surfaces being matt. The floor finish should contrast with the walls and, if possible, with the furniture.
- Outdoor steps can be made more visible by painting a yellow / white strip to their edges. Stair rails and grab rails can provide useful stability, but it helps if they also contrast with the colour of the background wall.
- Doors can be a particular hazard. Sometimes painting the leading edge of doors in a contrasting colour to their faces can make them more visible. Similar contrast can be applied to the leading edges of cupboard doors - contrasting tape can be used for this purpose.
Read the practical adaptations page of our website and browse our online shop for products which can help, such as bright orange labelling.
8. Use assistive devices
Share your concerns with others - your safety is important as is your ability to maintain independence by getting out and about. If you are not happy about the thought of using a mobility aid, try to meet other people similar to you who have experienced sight loss. Sharing concerns and hearing how others have overcome challenges can be a helpful step to take.
Stair gates - some people with little or no useful vision can easily get disorientated, even in their own homes. The presence of stairs can be of particular concern; so if this is a worry to you consider fitting a gate to the top of the staircase in your house.
Walking aids - your doctor or an occupational therapist might recommend using a walking stick or similar aid to keep you steady.
Other assistive devices - other assistive devices can also help:
- Hand rails for both sides of stairways
- Non-slip treads for bare-wood steps
- A raised toilet seat or one with armrests
- Grab rails for the shower or bath
- A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or bath - plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down.
Community care alarms
If you live alone you might like to think about getting a community alarm. Community alarms allow you to call for help if you are unwell or have a fall and can't reach a telephone.
You contact a 24 hour response centre by pressing a button on a pendant or wristband that you wear all of the time. Staff at the centre will then call out the best person to help you - a neighbour, relative or friend, or the emergency services.
Many local councils run community alarm schemes. You can contact your council for more information. Age UK also offer a personal alarm service. For more information about the service and the likely costs call 0800 77 22 66.
9. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
A good balanced diet is essential for your general health and well-being. There is evidence that a diet high in vegetables and fruit can reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Dark green, leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach are particularly helpful.
- Our information on nutrition and the eye offers details on the vitamins and nutrients that have been found to have an impact on eye conditions.
- Breakfast is important and eat smaller meals or snacks throughout the day. It is good to have something to eat every three to four hours.
- High fibre foods and complex carbohydrates will give you more even energy levels throughout the day. High fibre foods include oats, fruit, vegetables, beans and pulses. Complex carbohydrates include brown bread and whole-wheat pasta and rice.
Dehydration can make us feel sluggish, induce headaches, constipation, impair our mental alertness and put us in a bad mood. Take small, regular amounts of fluid throughout the day - about eight glasses.
- If mobility in the home is difficult, take a jug of water and a glass next to where you are sitting. Remember that you will get useful hydration from fruit, vegetables and soups.
- Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee can have a diuretic affect, so try to take some non-caffeinated fluids during the day, such as herbal or fruit teas, or just tap water.
- Some people with restricted mobility say they don't like to drink too much because of the effort involved in getting to a toilet. The human body is generally good at regulating water content and if we take smaller amounts of fluid, but more regularly, the body will manage this intake.
Alcohol and its effects
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol decreases the body's ability to absorb calcium needed to strengthen our bones.
- Have at least two days each week that are alcohol-free. Remember that alcohol can disturb our sleep and can act as a depressant.
- Some prescription drugs can have an adverse effect when combined with alcohol. Ask your GP or pharmacist about the effects of the prescription and non-prescription medications you are taking.
10. Stop smoking
Smoking reduces the ability of cells to make the bones stronger. It also impairs the body's ability to absorb important anti-oxidants and vitamin C from our diet.
See the smoking and sight loss page of our website.
What should I do if I fall?
Don't panic, then stop and rest a minute.
If you can get up
- Ease yourself onto your elbows, move onto your hands and knees and hold onto a stable and firm surface to support yourself.
- Then raise yourself into a standing position and turn yourself gently to sit on a firm surface.
If you can't get up
- Are you able to attract attention? Try to shout and bang something; press your pendant alarm; or use the telephone if you can.
- Try to get comfortable, either by finding nearby a pillow or cushion or a rolled up item of clothing to put under your head.
- If you have fallen on a hard surface try to move to a carpeted floor if this is possible. If something like a coat is nearby, put this over yourself to keep warm.
- Finally, tell your GP or health professional about your fall.