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What to do if your loved one has had a fall

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What to do if your loved one has had a fall
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What might cause them to fall?

There's all sorts of varied reasons why your family member or friend might have fallen, but one of the most common causes is moving from one position to another, often called 'transfers' by doctors and hospital staff.

This might be when they go from sitting to standing (such as getting out of bed or a chair) or the other way, from standing to sitting. Or it could be when they move from one sitting position to another, such as moving from a toilet to a wheelchair, or vice versa.

Although they might usually manage these movements fine, the problem comes if your friend or relative becomes less mobile or strong, making a fall more likely as they carry out this movement.

What can I do to help?

Making little adjustments around their home and to their daily lifetsyle can making all the difference in reducing their risk of falling.

  • Mop up any spillages straight away. If your loved ones lives on their own and you don't live near, it may be worth asking a neighbour or cleaner to pop round regularly to make sure there's nothing slippery or potentially dangerous spilt.
  • Remove clutter, trailing wires and frayed carpet that they could trip over
  • Use non-slip mats and rugs, especially on any laminated or tiled flooring
  • Use high-wattage light bulbs in lamps and torches so that you can see clearly.
  • Organise their house so that climbing, stretching and bending are kept to a minimum, and they won't bump into anything.
  • Ask them to tell you what things they struggle to do on their own now and make a plan of who can help take over these tasks for them.
  • Make sure they don’t walk on slippery floors in socks or tights or wear loose-fitting, trailing clothes that might be tripped over.
  • Make sure they wear well-fitting shoes that are in good condition and which support their ankles.
  • Ask them to trim their toenails regularly and use moisturiser to keep their feet in good condition. If they struggle to cut their own toenails, consider speaking to a chiropodist.
  • Discuss having a fall detector so they can summon help if they fall. This can be quite a simple device where a sensor light comes on at a monitoring centre when they press a button.

What professional help can we get?

If your relative or friend went to hospital after their fall and has since been discharged, the hospital should arrange a care plan.

This could include a visit from a professional with experience of preventing falls, such as an occupational therapist who can look at the causes of the fall and take steps to reduce the potential risks of it happening again, or a physiotherapist who will offer exercise routines to help strengthen their movemebnts and mobility.

But this type of aftercare is not always provided immediately by the NHS, so you will need to speak to the hospital to ask what their policy is.

If the hospital hasn't arranged a follow-up visit, you can make your own arrangements. Start by calling the NHS Trust operating in your relative’s area and ask to speak to their falls prevention team to see if they can offer any help. If not, you may wish to pay for a private healthcare professioanl to make a visit to offer their advice on reducing falls in the future.

You can look for local occupational therapists here and search for physiotherapists here.

If you're concerned about paying for alterations to make their home safer, local authorities and Home Improvement Schemes agencies may offer financial support. Find out more here.

  • Advice from Which?
  • For more information on dealing with a fall please click here
  • There's more health and relationship advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.