Information about Slips, Trips, and Falls
What is a slip, trip, or fall?
Are you worried about losing your balance? Maybe you’re nervous because you’ve had a trip or fall already, or maybe the thought of losing balance is playing on your mind. It might be that as you get older you start to feel unsteady on your feet, you slow down a little or there are changes to your health.
If you’re worried about having a trip or fall or you’ve already had one, it’s common to feel quite shaken, to become cautious, limit what you’re willing to do, and lose confidence. These worries aren’t unusual, but they can make you anxious, isolated or stop you doing the things you used to do.
If you’re feeling like this, you might be reluctant to ask for help, even if your fear stops you wanting to go out on your own or do things around the house. It can be difficult to admit things you used to be able to do are getting trickier and you might worry that if you accept help it will reduce your independence. But it’s important to ask for help if you feel you need it.
Why can they be a problem?
When we look at slips, trips and falls, we place them on a continuum, ranging from a simple trip ("fit fallers") to a severe fall ("frail fallers"). They occur within the community and within the hospital setting; and can affect all age groups, and genders.
Falls are one of the biggest costs to the NHS and social care. As well as the financial burden, a slip, trip or fall can also have an enormous impact on a person’s quality of life; impacting their confidence and independence, which can cause knock on repercussions for family and friends.
What can cause you to lose balance and how to prevent this
Even though slips, trips and falls can become a concern as we get older, they aren’t inevitable and there’s a lot you can do to reduce the chance of having one, even if you’ve had one in the past. We are going to explain ways you can reduce your risk, by looking after your health, and the practical things you can do to make sure your home is a safe environment. By making some of the changes suggested, you can make your day-to-day life easier and stay independent for longer.
Causes of slips, trips and falls
Factors out with the body e.g., environmental and home hazards, medication
Factors within the body e.g., muscle weakness, loss of balance, impaired vision, cognitive impairment
A combination of both
Prevention of slips, trips and falls
This is important for balance and can deteriorate as we get older. Getting your eyes checked regularly, wearing glasses as required, and the right glasses for the job, can help. Remember your eyes also need time to adjust when moving to areas of changing light.
Walking in bare feet/socks can increase risk of slipping. Well fitting footwear should be worn when walking
- Soft, firm leather shoes with man-made thin sole and low/flat heel with good grip are best
- Slippers should not be worn for long periods, and should have appropriate fastening to keep them on your feet
Foot pain can affect your balance and stability. Feet should be looked after, and toenails trimmed regularly.
As we get older, our bones become thinner and can lead to osteoporosis. Women are more prone to osteoporosis than men, which can increase the risk of sustaining a broken bone from a fall. It’s important to maintain bone strength, through diet rich in calcium and vitamin C, as well as doing weight bearing exercises, and limiting alcohol and smoking.
Medication can have an impact on your balance in several ways:
- Being on too many - more than 4 medicines daily (known as "polypharmacy")
- Being on certain medication - some drugs can cause drowsiness, whilst others can cause blood pressure to lower and cause dizziness
- Mixing medication – taking over the counter meds can sometimes influence other meds you are taking
Make sure any side effects following new medications/medication changes are reported to your GP or pharmacist.
- Eating a healthy balanced diet and drinking plenty of water can help to keep you fighting fit and on your feet. Missing a meal can make you feel dizzy or faint, and dehydration can lead to dizziness and loss of balance.
- Remember that alcohol can affect balance, coordination and judgement, increasing the risk of a trip or fall.
A bladder or bowel problem can make you rush to toilet or go to the toilet more often. Ensure any continence issues are correctly treated/managed and factor that in when going out.
It's important that if you find yourself getting up frequently during the night, that you remember to consider the lighting to prevent a slip, trip or fall.
- Lack of activity can result in loss of bone density and muscle strength, leading to reduced mobility and confidence, and increased risk of losing your balance. Moving more can help you to strengthen muscles and improve balance, whilst reducing joint pain, which can make it easier for you to move around safely.
- Keeping active should be fun and include daily activities that you enjoy. The more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to make a habit out of doing it.
Sometimes a walking aid is needed to keep you steady on your feet. Ensure you use the aid prescribed to you, and it is well maintained.
Around the home
Sometimes familiar environments can become difficult to get around. Some simple things that can keep you safe in your home includes:
- Keeping floors and stairs clutter free. Loose rugs, clutter and trailing cables can all pose as a trip hazard.
- Having appropriate lighting throughout. Avoid walking in the dark by ensuring lights are easily reachable or automatic.
- Using equipment as required. Grab rails on steps can offer additional support, whilst good height chairs and beds can reduce the risk of a fall.
- Putting a bell on your pet’s collar. Cats and dogs like to wind their way around your feet, so if you can’t see them, at least you can hear them.
Slips in the shower or bath can be common. Use of rubber backed mats, grab rails and/or bath and shower seats can help reduce that risk. Just make sure to lift towel bathmats when not in use, as they can pose as a trip hazard.
Tech support can help alert others to you whereabouts (such as pressure mats or bed monitors) or let you call for help of required (such as a CAS alarm or falls detector).
Smart TEC can also offer great solutions to checking in with people or being able to summon help.
What to do if you have a fall to the floor or at are risk of having one
If you've had a simple slip or trip, use the advice above to help prevent this from happening.
Post falls plan
- If you’ve had a previous fall, at risk of falling or have a fear of falling, having a falls plan in place can be helpful for not only you, but also gives reassurance for those who love you.
How to get up from a fall
- Knowing how to get up from a fall, and practicing this can be really helpful.
Anyone can fall, and every fall is different. Watch these short films to find out what to do if you fall, or if you’re helping someone who has fallen.