Falls Prevention in the Elderly
Falls prevention in older people should be a priority for everyone. It is Australia’s leading cause of disability due to injury. A simple fall can lead to a broken hip, shoulder or wrist. Any of these injuries can bring about massive changes in your life, or the life of a family member. Podiatrists play an important role in working toward falls prevention. This Info Sheet will explain how we can help to keep you or your loved ones standing and walking for longer.
As we age, our overall strength and balance will decline. Additionally our feet begin to lose strength, flexibility and feeling. These changes put older people at a risk of falling over. A podiatrist can assess for risk factors that can be modified to prevent falls including: foot pain, foot deformity, muscle strength, footwear and gait (how we walk).
Foot Pain and Falls Prevention
If your feet are painful, you will alter the way you walk to compensate for the pain. This may increase your risk of falling. Eliminating pain may be as simple as attending a routine general appointment to attend to nail problems and to remove any corns or callus. Another source of pain may be mechanical and due to the way your feet are functioning. A podiatrist can conduct a full assessment of the muscles, tendons and joints to identify what is causing the pain. From here, we can provide treatment to eliminate or lessen the pain.
Foot Deformity and Falls Prevention
Includes toe deformities (claw toes and hammer toes), bunions, osteoarthritis and more. Foot deformities cause an abnormal pressure distribution under the foot. Trying to avoid sore spots can impact on balance. We have a number of treatments we can use to move pressure away from painful areas.
Muscle Strength and Falls Prevention
The muscles in the foot have an important role in creating stability and balance. Podiatrists can conduct tests to identify any weak muscles and show you some exercises to do at home to help strengthen them. Examples include calf raises to strengthen the back of the legs. Depending on your balance, we may suggest that you try balancing on one leg for a certain amount of time.
Footwear and Falls Prevention
It is important to wear appropriate shoes that fit properly. Your feet provide your brain with feedback information on the surface you are walking on to provide the right amount of balance and postural control. If you are wearing poor shoes, it will affect this process. Opt for shoes with a sturdy sole that have a good amount of grip on the bottom. There should be some type of fastenings (lace-up, Velcro, buckle or a zip) to keep your foot snugly in the shoe. It is a good idea to get your shoes fitted at a shoe store or checked by your podiatrist as your needs may have changed as you have gotten older. For example, you may need a shoe with a wider or deeper toe box to accommodate clawing toes.
Gait and Falls Prevention
An assessment of how you walk may reveal useful information. For example, if a person does not lift their knee high enough in a step, the foot may not clear the ground. If it strikes the ground swinging through, it might cause you to pitch forward and fall. On assessment abnormalities can be picked up and addressed in order to reduce the chance of having a fall in the future.
Environment and Falls Prevention
It is a good idea to check your home for any trip hazards. Things to look for include: rugs on the floor, electrical cords running across the floor and cluttered furniture. Another tip is to have good lighting throughout your home. Perhaps a night light to guide you from the bedroom to the bathroom would be a good idea.
Medication and Falls Prevention
Side effects of medications or taking multiple different prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs is linked to an increase in the likelihood of falls. Side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, light headedness or confusion. If you are concerned about feeling unsteady on your feet due to your medications you should consult your general practitioner. You may have noticed a change in your stability after a recent change in your medications or becoming ill with the flu or a bout of gastro.
Blood pressure can change rapidly with a ‘change in altitude’. When you go from lying down to standing, for example, your blood pressure drops. When your blood pressure drops there is less blood travelling to the brain and you may feel light-headed or dizzy. It pays to pause for a few moments after a sudden change. Ideally with at least one hand on a stable object.
To discuss any of the mentioned risk factors for falls with a professional, book an appointment with one of our friendly podiatrists. Walk Without Pain ! 3256 1006