Every year thousands of older people are admitted to hospital as a result of a fall or other injury. These injuries can be life changing and life threatening, with a tremendous loss of independence involved for some people. Injuries may range from cuts and grazes, to fractures, some injuries may be fatal.
Falls may be as a result of a simple trip, or loss of balance. External measures can be made around the home to reduce the chances of a fall, however, other factors such as muscle strength, balance, and medication may be contributing factors also.
Age Concern along with various health and injury prevention groups around the country are concerned about this. A variety of programmes have been instigated, and strategies introduced to assist people in increasing their health, well-being, and mobility and assist in reducing the possibility of a fall or other injury. For information on courses in your area visit our Falls Prevention Notice Board page
Strong evidence shows that regular physical activity is safe and reduces the risk of falls in older adults. Older adults at risk of falling should do exercises that maintain or improve their balance. For best results, they should do these exercises
- at least 3 days a week and
- using exercises from a program shown to reduce falls
Examples of balance exercises include:
- Backward walking
- Sideways walking
- Heel walking
- Toe walking
- Standing from a sitting position
For more information on physical activity visit our Physical activity and exercise page
Injury prevention information
Live Stronger for Longer
Live stronger for longer is a new easy to navigate website, designed by older people for older people, with a focus in reducing the incidence and severity of falls and fractures. It captures the essence of positive ageing and celebrates independence. Take a look around..
The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) have a number of ideas, suggestions, information and statistics on their website regarding falls for older people.
Visit ACC on the web.
You can also access other information including back injury prevention, safety for children, OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome) prevention, and injury prevention for Maori and Pacific peoples.
Decline in falls and broken hips a success story for New Zealand health care
New data from the Health Quality & Safety Commission show the number of people falling in hospital and breaking their hip continues to reduce. Between September 2014 and the end of September 2017, there have been 107 fewer in-hospital falls resulting in fractured hips compared to historic trends.
The reduction in the number of patients falling and breaking their hip in hospital has saved around $5 million over three years, which includes the cost of longer hospital stay, and also considers the additional cost of diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. Every broken hip avoided also gives an estimated extra 1.6 years of healthy life.
She says involving patients and their families and whānau in falls risk assessments as part of the care team, when an older person enters hospital, can reduce falls.
Things hospital patients or people in aged residential care can do to help keep from losing their balance or falling over include:
- keep important items within reach, including your call button or call bell
- take your time when you get up. If you feel dizzy, weak or light-headed, call a nurse - don't get up by yourself
- ask for help getting to the bathroom or toilet, and use the bell if you don't feel well, or if you need assistance to return to your bed or room
- take extra care on wet or slippery floors
- watch out for any clutter or obstacles in your way, and ask for them to be moved
- use the handrails in the bathroom and hallway
- don't use your IV pole, tray table, wheelchair, or other objects that can move to steady yourself
- use your walking aid in the way you have been shown
- wear well-fitting shoes or slippers every time you get up. If you need assistance, ask for help to put them on
- make sure your clothing is not too long or too loose - it might trip you up
- at night, turn on the light before you get out of bed, and turn on the light in the toilet.
For more information on what the Health Quality and Safety Commission New Zealand is doing to reduce falls visit their website. You can keep up to date by subscribing to their e-digest.
Preventing falls at home
You don't need to wrap yourself in cotton wool to reduce your risk of a fall, but you can make your home safer with a few adjustments.
Live Stronger for Longer's booklet "Love your independence" includes a very comprehensive checklist for making your home safer, as well as other practical advice to help prevent falls.