Falls are a common cause of injury. Older people are more likely to fall, especially if they have a long-term health condition. If you fall and are hurt you should dial 999 for an ambulance.
What to do if you fall
Around one in three adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year.
Most falls don't result in serious injury. However, there's a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones. It can also cause the person to:
- lose confidence
- become withdrawn
- feel as if they've lost their independence
If you have a fall, it's important to keep calm.
If you fall and you’re not hurt
If you're not hurt and you feel strong enough, use the following steps to get up:
- don't get up quickly
- roll onto your hands and knees
- look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed to hold on to
- hold on to the furniture with both hands to support yourself and, when you feel ready, slowly get up
- sit down and rest for a while before carrying on with your daily activities
If you fall and you’re hurt
If you're hurt or unable to get up, try to get someone's attention by:
- calling out for help
- banging on the wall or floor
- using your aid call button (if you have one)
If possible, crawl to a telephone and dial 999 to request an ambulance.
Whilst waiting for help you should:
- try to reach something warm, such as a blanket or dressing gown, to put over you, particularly your legs and feet
- stay as comfortable as possible
- try to change your position at least once every half an hour or so
Causes of a fall
The natural ageing process means that older people have an increased risk of falling. In the UK, falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75.
Older people are more likely to have a fall because they may have:
- balance problems and muscle weakness
- poor vision
- a long-term health condition, such as heart disease, dementia or low blood pressure (hypotension), which can lead to dizziness and a brief loss of consciousness
A fall is also more likely to happen when:
- the floor is wet or recently polished, such as in the bathroom
- the lighting in the room is dim
- rugs or carpets aren't properly secured
- the person is reaching for storage areas, such as a cupboard, or is going downstairs
- the person is rushing to get to the toilet during the day or at night
Another common cause of falls, particularly among older men, is falling from a ladder while carrying out home maintenance work.
In older people, falls can be particularly problematic because osteoporosis is a fairly common problem. Osteoporosis can develop in both men and women, particularly in people who:
- drink large amounts of alcohol
- take steroid medication
- have a family history of hip fractures
However, older women are most at risk, because it's often associated with the hormonal changes that occur during the menopause.
When to see your GP
Healthcare professionals take falls in older people very seriously, because of the consequences they can have for their health and wellbeing.
There’s a great deal of help and support available for older people. You can ask your GP about the various options. Your GP may carry out some simple tests to check your balance. They might review any medicines you're taking, in case their side effects may increase your risk of falling.
Your GP may also recommend:
- having a sight test if you're having problems with your vision, even if you already wear glasses
- having an electrocardiogram (ECG) and checking your blood pressure while lying and standing
- requesting a home hazard assessment, where a healthcare professional visits your home to identify potential hazards and offer advice
- doing exercises or increasing activity to improve your strength and balance
Preventing a fall
There are several measures you can take to help prevent a fall. Simple everyday measures around the home include:
- using non-slip mats in the bathroom
- mopping up spills to prevent wet, slippery floors
- getting help lifting or moving items that are heavy or difficult to lift
Removing clutter and ensuring all areas of the home are well lit can also help to prevent falls. The charity Age UK has advice about how to make tasks easier around the home.
More useful links
- How to use your health services
- Keeping mobile and preventing falls
- NHS Live Well - health and fitness
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
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