Health and Well-Being

The risks of falls and how to avoid them

Around half of people aged 80 and over, fall at least once a year. Over half of all fatal accidents suffered by people over 65 are due to a fall. Even small falls can cause serious injuries, loss of mobility and independence.

Thankfully, there’s plenty we can do to stay on our feet.

What are the causes of falls?

  • Chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, dementia etc. can cause lack of coordination, dizzy spells and weakness.
  • Blood pressure that drops too much when you get up from lying down or sitting (called postural hypotension)
  • Loss of balance due to an infection or fear of falling.
  • Some medicines including those that manage blood pressure may have side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness or other loss of functioning.
  • Decline in muscle strength (sarcopenia) and joint flexibility can affect mobility affecting how you move and how easily you can walk and get up and down.
  • Poor eyesight leading to reduced reaction time making it difficult to avoid hazards. Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration are common age-related vision problems.
  • Fluid build up in the ear. While fluid accumulation in the middle or inner ear is typically caused by infections, it can also be caused by poor ear hygiene or even ill-fitting hearing aids.
  • Arthritic conditions of the spine, hips, and knees could make your loved one lose his or her balance. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis not only cause pain and inflammation of the joints but can also cause an unsteady gait. 

What are the consequences of falls?

Physical consequences


  • Fractures particularly to the wrist or hip. Hip fractures can be seriously debilitating.
  • Women are particularly vulnerable due to a higher occurrence of osteoporosis.
  • Sprains and strains of joints and tendons also are common after a fall.
  • Difficulty or inability to move around independently, especially for long periods of time

Social consequences


  • Loss of independence
  • Financial costs of hospitalisation
  • Loss of social contacts due to long-term hospitalisation
  • Decreased quality of life

Mental health impact


  • Frustration at losing their independence
  • Fear of falling again, increased anxiety.
  • Distress resulting from uncertainty and anxiety in life after suffering from a fall-related injury
  • Loss of self-esteem due to an inability to take care of oneself after falling

How can you help prevent falls?

  • Keep active – take steps to improve your strength and balance. Find out about relevant exercises and any local classes.
  • Keep the stairs well lit and ensure damaged or worn carpet is either repaired or removed. Fit a handrail on both sides of the stairs.
  • Be careful with rugs and electrical leads, tape them down if possible.
  • Remove hazards around the home: empty containers, old newspapers, uneven floors.
  • Take extra care around your beloved pet.
  • Be careful with loose or trailing clothes such as belts or dressing gown cords.
  • Loose or badly worn footwear can cause a nasty fall. Walking in socks or tights on hard or slippery floors is dangerous, always choose well-fitting shoes and slippers. Slippers with holes, frayed uppers or broken-down backs need to be changed.
  • Consider fitting grab rails in high-risk areas of the home such as the stairs, the kitchen, around the bath, the shower and the toilet. It’s never a good idea to grab a towel rail or a soap tray for support, they are not designed to hold a person’s weight.
  • Pause for a moment before you stand up and be careful not to stretch too high or bend too low. Listen to your body!


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