Anyone can havea fall, but older people are more vulnerable and likely to fall, especially if theyhave a long-term health condition.

Falls are a common, but often overlooked, cause of injury. Around one in three adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will have more frequent falls.

Most falls don't result in serious injury. However, there's always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones,and it can causethe person to lose confidence, become withdrawn and feelas ifthey've lost their independence.

What should I do if Ifall?

If you have afall, it's important to keep calm.

If you're not hurt and you feel strong enough to get up, don't get up quickly. Roll onto your hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed.

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're hurt or unable to get up, try to get someone's attention by calling out for help, banging on the wall or floor, or using your aid call button (if you have one). If possible, crawl to a telephone and dial 999 to request an ambulance.

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 and try to change your position at least once every half an hour or so.

If you're living with or caring for an elderly person, see First aid for information and advice about what to do after an accident .

What causes a fall?

The natural ageing process means that older people havean increased risk of having a fall. 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

Afall is also more likely to happen when:

  • the floor is wet or recently polished, such as inthe bathroom
  • the lighting in the roomis dim
  • rugs or carpets aren't properly secured
  • the person is reaching for storage areas, such as acupboard, 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 smoke, drink excessive amounts of alcohol , take steroid medication or 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 .

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, slipperyfloors
  • 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 .

Healthcare professionals take falls in older people very seriously, because of the huge consequences they can have for the health and wellbeing of this group. As a result, there's a great deal of help and support available for older people, andit's worth askingyour GP about the various options.

Your GP may carry out some simple tests to check your balance. They can also 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 exercisesto improve your strength and balance ( try some exercises for older people )


Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 4 Jan 2017