The risk of falling increases with age. Every year millions of older people fall and experience fall-related injuries. It is important to know what to do if you have a fall so you can minimise the damage.
Here are things you should know in case of a fall:
The first thing to remember is to not try too hard to get up very quickly. It is better to keep lying down for a few minutes if you are conscious, and take a few deep breaths.
The next step is to self-assess whether you are capable of getting up or not. If there is someone in the house or a neighbour close by, cry out for help. If there is no help around, try to crawl on the floor with your knees and elbows, if it is possible, and grab a sturdy piece of furniture around.
Try to gradually lift yourself up and sit on the piece of furniture if it is of appropriate height. If it is too high, keep sitting on the ground and wait for help.
Sometimes rolling on one side (the less painful side) helps. It is a good idea to have an alarm bell installed for emergencies such as these or have an accessible phone around you, including in the bathroom. It is also a good idea to keep your cell phone in your pocket at all times especially if you live alone or spend a part of the day alone.
If you are able to get up on your own, it is a good sign. This means you have not sustained any significant injury to the lower limbs.
A fall warrants a visit to a physician
If you are able to get up on your own, apply ice to the painful or swollen area to relieve pain and inflammation. This can be repeated about three to four times a day for about 15-20 mins each. Always keep an ice pack at home; it can be bought at any pharmacy. If you don’t have an ice pack, grab a few ice cubes, wrap them in a thin cloth, fold it, and put it on the painful area.
If you have persistent pain and swelling, difficulty in bearing weight, loss of consciousness even if transient, any type of bleeding anywhere, difficulty in movement of any joint, nausea and vomiting, you should visit a physician or go to the emergency room.
If you have persistent pain and swelling, difficulty in bearing weight, loss of consciousness even if transient, any type of bleed anywhere, any difficulty in movement of any joint, nausea and vomiting, you should visit a physician or emergency.
What can cause a fall?
A fall can be an indicator of various things. There is a possibility of a deranged biochemical parameter like altered sugar or electrolytes. It could also mean fluctuating blood pressure. A condition called orthostatic hypotension or postural hypotension can make people feel dizzy or lightheaded and cause a fall. This condition causes low blood pressure while you are standing up.
The reason behind a fall can also be slower reflexes, bad eyesight or impaired hearing. Conditions like heart disease, diabetes, thyroid, and other conditions can also impact your balance, which can lead to a fall. In some people, the medicines they are taking may cause dizziness, sleepiness, or nausea, leading to a loss of balance.
How to prevent a fall?
A fall is just an accident. There are simple methods/precautions that you can take to minimise the chances of such accidents or a fall.
- Keep your room lit, including at night, or keep the light switch accessible. You can use a small lamp or any type of dim light for the night.
- Ensure that none of the areas on the floor are wet, including the living room, bedroom, or the bathroom.
- Use a cane or a walker if you have been advised to do so. Ensure that whichever kind of assisted device you are using is comfortable, or that their wheels are smooth.
- Make sure that all the rugs and carpets are neatly laid out; they shouldn’t have protruding corners. Tape the edges to the carpet if necessary.
- Install railings or grab bars in and around the bathroom.
- Install anti-skid tiles in the bathroom.
- Have your hearing and eyesight tested. Small changes in your eyesight and hearing can be the reason behind the fall. Ensure that your glasses and your hearing aid is updated and fits well.
- Stay active. An exercise regime can help you make your muscles and joints stronger. Depending on your age and health, you can get help in planning the right kind of exercises for you.
- Wear shoes with rubber soles, or non-skid shoes. Ensure that your clothes aren’t too long or have edges that may get tangled in furniture or knobs etc.
- Having healthy bones helps. It may not prevent a fall but it will help minimise the extent of an injury. For healthy bones, stay active, quit smoking, limit alcohol use, and eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
The author is a New Delhi-based orthopaedic, and joint replacement and spine surgeon with more than 22 years of experience.
Dr. Abhishek Kumar Mishra
Dr. Abhishek Mishra is a New Delhi-based orthopaedic, joint replacement and spine surgeon with more than 22 years of experience. A renowned surgeon, he is now serving as a full-time Senior Consultant & Head of department in Orthopedics at Apollo Spectra Hospital.
Ph: +91-9310656999; 011-41655490
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