This information is for people who may be worried about falling or have had a fall. It’s also for family members or carers of people who have had a fall.

The information helps you to understand why you might fall and offers advice on how to maintain strength and balance and prevent falling.

It also tells you where to find more information, advice and services that can help you to manage and get support.

Why you might fall
Controlling your balance is an important part of how you move and manage independently. As you get older, it becomes more difficult to keep your balance when you do everyday activities. This could include walking, bending down or getting in and out of chairs, beds and baths.

The natural ageing process makes you react more slowly to changes in body position. This means that you are slower to correct your balance.

Your balance might be affected by:

  • low blood pressure when you stand up
  • some medicines
  • muscles and joints that are not strong and flexible
  • your brain not being able to process information to keep you balanced
  • poor eyesight
  • inner ear infections
  • stiff joints
  • muscle weakness
  • poor posture
  • alcohol
  • conditions or injuries that affect the nervous system, such as a stroke or Parkinson’s disease

Improving your strength and balance and preventing falls
There are different ways that you can improve your balance and prevent falls.

Talk to your GP practice. This is an important starting point if you have fallen over, or are feeling weaker or dizzy.

A GP practice can:

  • review any medicines you take
  • investigate any symptoms
  • give advice about preventing falls

Keeping active
We naturally lose 8% of our muscle strength every decade from the age of 30.

An active lifestyle, including exercise or moving around doing daily activities, can improve your muscle strength. It can also help with your balance and flexibility. This helps to prevent falls.

You could try some strength and balance exercises at home or in a local group that will help you stay safe and steady and reduce the risk of a fall. Doing these exercises for 17 minutes a day can reduce your risk of a fall by up to 43%.

Try them with a friend or family member to gain confidence. Join your local Thai Chi, yoga, walking group, or any other exercise group.

To keep active, you might need to use a walking aid.

Staying safe at home
Changing your home environment and garden could help to make daily life easier, or reduce any hazards that could cause trips.

Good, bright lighting will help and check the stability of your chair, bed and toilet.

You could also consider a community alarm that you wear. This lets you call for help if you do fall by pressing a button.


Eye tests and hearing checks
Regular eye tests and hearing checks can find conditions that might put you more at risk of falling. Be sure to wear you glasses and hearing aids when up and about.


Keeping your feet healthy
Foot problems and shoes that do not fit well can contribute to falling over. It’s important to look after your feet and wear footwear that will not cause problems.

Your shoes and slippers should fit properly, cover your heel and have good grip on the sole.


Eating and drinking well
Good nutrition can help to improve your bone and muscle strength, and prevent falls. Having a healthy, well-balanced diet is more important as you get older. This is because you lose muscle mass (the amount of muscle in your body), which affects your strength.

It is important to stay properly hydrated, be sure to drink plenty of water.


Peeing when you don’t mean to
Peeing when you don’t mean to, also called urinary incontinence, can increase your risk of falling in many different ways. You might rush to get to the toilet or feel tired in the day because you are not sleeping well. Managing incontinence can help to reduce these risks.

 

Overcoming your fear of falling
It’s common to feel anxious after having a fall. However, this might stop you doing your usual activities. If this happens, you might lose general body strength, balance and stamina. This makes you less stable when walking and more likely to have another fall.

It is natural to be worried about more falls if you have experienced one. There is help and support available to you. If you have had a fall, nearly fallen or are worried about falling you can contact the Strength and Balance Helpline (see page 9).

Further advice on preventing falls and home exercises

Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/health-information/falls

This website gives information, advice and support for all on falls prevention and what to do if you have had a fall.

Age UK
National advice line: 0800 678 1602. Contact them for exercise advice for over 60s including strength and balance exercises and staying active or go to: www.ageuk.org.uk/wellbeing

Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Leaflets and online advice on how it’s never too late to exercise and how to stay active at home:

www.csp.org.uk/nevertoolate

NHS Physical activity for older adults:
Go to www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-guidelines and select ‘physical activity guidelines for older adults

Support to move more in Southwark
How to exercise for free and local physical activity groups you can join: www.southwark.gov.uk/move-more

Useful Local Contacts in Southwark

Southwark Falls Service
If you have had a fall, nearly fallen, are worried about falling or if you have had a significant change in your mobility, you may need professional help.

Contact the ‘Strength and Balance Helpline’ on 020 3049 5424

Monday to Friday: 8.30am to 4.30pm who can arrange any specialist assessment or treatment needed.

Family or friends can ring on your behalf. You can leave a message and the team will call you back.

Ageing Well Southwark
Help and advice for seniors and their carers in need of support. A one stop shop to connect you to the services and activities you may benefit from including Southwark Council’s Adult Social Care team. They can help you make friends and give you advice to support your independence.

The telephone line and 1-2-1 support is for anyone over the age of 18. The support line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm excluding bank holidays.

Telephone: 020 7525 3324 (select option 5)

www.ageingwellsouthwark.org

Southwark Council Adult Social Care
Get information about living independently, how to get support from the Council, Ageing Well Southwark and more.

www.southwark.gov.uk/adult-social-care

Fire safety at home
Request a free home fire safety visit from London Fire Brigade

(london-fire.gov.uk)

Or call free on: 0800 028 4428

or email: smokealarms@london-fire.gov.uk

Handyperson service

Handypersons can help with small repairs or adaptations such as moving furniture, putting up shelves and handrails, changing lightbulbs, installing smoke alarms and fitting locks and security chains. You may need to pay.

www.southwark.gov.uk/handypersons

Ageing Well Southwark can put you in touch with this service on 020 7525 3324.

Southwark Council Handyperson Service can be reached directly on

020 7525 1863

or email: handypersonservice@southwark.gov.uk

If you need a repair made as part of your council tenancy agreement then call repairs on 020 7525 2600.

Walking sticks and frames

If your walking stick or frame is broken, call the falls service on 020 3049 5424.

If the rubber feet (ferrule) on your walking stick or frame need replacing ask at your local chemist or disability shop.

Pendant / wrist community alarm (telecare)

Ageing Well Southwark can tell you about a range of options suitable for you.

www.ageingwellsouthwark.org

Equipment and gadgets along with telecare (sensors fitted at home linked to a 24hr monitoring centre): to help you with daily activities are available from Southwark

Council on: 020 7525 3324.

www.southwark.gov.uk/living-independently-equipment

Information about preventing falls, walking equipment wheelchairs, getting around Southwark, the Motability Scheme and more: www.southwark.gov.uk/help-with-mobility

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