Falls prevention key to independence

Beth Chrisp, 85, realised she needed to make a few changes to her lifestyle after she had two falls, the second time hitting her head on a concrete edge.

Her first fall happened a year ago when she was walking down a ramp in her Manutuke home. Beth fell and broke her ankle, requiring five weeks in hospital to recover.

As part of Mrs Chrisp’s recovery she had a caregiver come a few days after being discharged from hospital to prevent her from falling again. The caregiver, who Mrs Chrisp described as a “breath of fresh air”, quickly cleared all potential hazards and taught her why it’s important to prevent falls from happening.

Mrs Chrisp and her family decided it was time for her to move into town as she was getting older and needed to be in a home, which would better suit her needs. She admitted it was tough leaving her family home of 40 years, but agreed moving into the retirement home was a good opportunity to make a few changes for her wellbeing.

Mrs Chrisp has been attending exercise classes where she has been working on stretching and keeping active. She has learnt that exercise is the most important component in preventing falls. One of the exercises she was given was to practice standing and closing her eyes, “That was a bit of a disaster” she chortled.  

Beth is grateful to her caregiver for “nana-proofing” her house and also to Oka, a physiotherapist for getting her confidence back. She admitted that a fall can really knock your confidence but wanted to reinforce the importance of making use of the services we have available in Tairāwhiti.

The most significant aspect of Beth Chrisp’s story is that she still has her independence and is able to carry on living how she would before. Kat Ngatai, Pinnacle falls prevention clinical nurse specialist, said “Sometimes falls may create some social and emotional consequences for older people which can lead to loss of confidence and their activity becomes restricted due to the loss of their independence. The consequences of untreated falls and risk factors are just as serious as those of other untreated chronic diseases.”

Doing exercises that strengthen your legs, core muscles and improve balance will reduce the risk of a fall. Exercise can also:

  • Keep your bones strong
  • Give you more energy
  • Help you sleep better
  • Help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight

You can also prevent falls from doing the following:

  • Use non-skid rugs
  • Coil or tape extension cords or wires
  • Attach non-slip rubber tread to steps
  • Ensure lamps are easy to reach
  • Plug in night lights
  • Keep often used items in easy-to-reach places
  • Never use a chair as a step stool

If you would like to find out more about how you can access falls prevention services please contact Kat Ngatai on 06 868 9933

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