The Importance of Preventing Falls
Would you believe that walking is actually quite complicated? Because we do it all the time, it comes as second nature. It’s only when something goes wrong that we realise how complex it actually is. We see toddlers learning to walk and we smile as they suddenly go ‘plop’ on their cushioning nappy and they try again and again to reach their destination. We read about people who may have been in a car accident and spend months learning to walk again. I recently read about a man who had his big toe amputated and found it difficult to resume walking as his balance was thrown. For many of us though, walking comes so naturally now we just don’t realise how complicated it actually is.
Scientists have conducted research into how we maintain our balance and have discovered that each step we take is ever so slightly different from all the others. They have discovered that each step requires very complex coordination of our feet, our arms, the angle of our trunk and the motion of our head and neck. Have you ever noticed that your walking is also stiff if you have a sore neck?. I know when I was pregnant my posture changed significantly and it was most noticeable when I was walking.
The slight variation in stride length and width as well as the different angles at which the foot hits the ground means that every single step is different. This research is being carried out to aid athletes and to try to prevent falls amongst older people.The research is delving into how our brains control our balance and stability and will be used to improve training techniques for athletes in the future. Balance is important for everyone but particularly for athletes such as skiers and gymnasts. As falls are the number one reason for injury in people over 65, it is hoped that the research will aid doctors to help prevent people’s risk of falling and improve the rehabilitation strategies for those who are injured.
Here’s some more tips on preventing falls!
- Eliminate Hazards – Ensure that precautions are taken to eliminate any hazards in the home. Examples include rugs that might slip, wooden stair treads, things left on the floor that might cause a trip such as shoes or newspapers or grandchildren’s toys. I once walked into my kitchen and stepped on a badminton racquet one of my children had left in the middle of the floor! It acted as a skate and I ended up flat on my back – I was very lucky I didn’t break anything.
- Taking Exercise – Taking regular exercise strengthens your body and improves your balance thereby reducing the risk the falls.
- Taking Extra Precautions – It might be time to make some small modifications to your home. For example, stairs going up by a wall rarely have a handrail by the wall whereas a handrail on either side of the stairs will provide more security.
- Getting Vision Checked – Falls can easily happen by misjudging the depth of a step so it’s important that eyesight is checked regularly as you get older to ensure that glasses and contact lenses are the correct prescription. If having to change to varifocals, it can take time to get used to them (I know it took me about two weeks) so do take special care during that time.
- Medication – If taking new medication, do be aware that sometimes the side effects can cause one to feel sleepier or even become dizzy.
- Non Slip Mats – Place non slip mats in the shower or bath to prevent slipping.
- Improve Lighting – Ensure that the lights outside your exterior doors are working and consider leaving on a hall light at night in case you need to go to the bathroom or the kitchen. It’s easier to adjust when there is a light already on rather than looking for a night switch when you are sleepy. Night lights plugged in are also an excellent idea.
- Extra Torches – In case the electricity goes, do keep a couple of torches in dedicated places so you know exactly where to find them should the need arise.
Therefore, the next time you go for a good long walk, I hope you enjoy it even more now you know how much talent and skill goes into it. Plus, you don’t want to have to relearn how to walk if you have a serious fall so do take care.
Remember that our Comfort Keepers Home Carers also offer companionship such as accompanying you for a walk if you feel would you like help or company taking exercise.