Prevention is best for staying safe at home
Posted: 1/21/2018 8:56 PM by
Just Better Care
Accidents can happen regardless of age or illness, but by identifying and managing the risks, the likelihood of falls at home can be reduced.
Optimise Allied Health Physiotherapist Anthony Moore has been practicing in the industry for 15 years. Ten of those years have been spent specialising in delivering services to older Australians to provide advice and guidance on keeping them healthy and happy at home.
“There was a lack of cohesive service provision to older people in the community, so as a business we decided to move into that space and fill that need,” Anthony explained.
“This type of service – implementing preventative measures in the home to help reduce the risk of falls – is urgently required in communities across Australia.”
A falls prevention home assessment is an important measure to take for anyone who lives on their own, or those who are at risk of falling. People who have previously had a fall should also consider having an assessment and talk to someone about their experience.
Anthony said a post-fall assessment may include developing an appropriate exercise program, and ensuring the person has confidence and the ability to return to normal functioning in their day-to-day life.
“The strategy is the more you can do the more you will do,” he said.
Who is at risk of a fall?
Having a fall is common among older adults however, many people are at risk of falling in their home. Anyone who has a neurological impairment such as a brain injury, where the peripheral nerve is damaged, or a weight condition, can have an increased risk of falling. Those who are visually impaired, or have a central nervous system issue, can also be at risk.
Many older Australians are embracing the Consumer Directed Care model, whereby they can flexibly choose care and support services that suit their requirements. Under an existing Home Care Package, recipients can allocate funding to a home assessment, which is usually conducted by an occupational therapist, a physiotherapist, or an exercise physiologist.
“It’s a very comprehensive process. People are often surprised by how many hazards are identified. The occupational therapist will visit you at home and do a full scale assessment of your property,” Anthony explained.
“They will identity all potential risks, starting from the top of the driveway – where there may be cracks in the pavement – to hazards on the steps leading into the house or apartment. Loose or damaged carpets and rugs, and poor overhead lighting are additional risks.
“We also check the fridge and pantry to ensure that our clients are maintaining a balanced diet, talk about their water consumption to ensure they’re keeping hydrated and make sure they’ve got their prescribed medication and are taking this at the appropriate time.”
One of the most important aspects to assess, Anthony says, is the individual’s footwear.
“Footwear and foot hygiene is so important. A common issue associated with ageing is the atrophy of the peripheral nerve; it loses its vascularity as a result of poor nutrition. This means you are more likely to put your foot in a position you’re unable to correct, and this can lead to a fall.
“We try to address all the risk factors in a home and find solutions to overcome them,” Anthony said.
“Environmental factors change. The carpet that was fine for the past 25 years now has loose edges and the person living there is using a frame, which causes friction and as a result, creates a risk of falling.”
Top tips for fall prevention
Anthony said the number one recommendation is to make sure you exercise regularly and within your capacity. Simple sitting and standing exercises at home can help to build up strength and highlight any limitations, while longer walks can help to build up endurance.
Secondly, Anthony advises to clear anything loose from floors and surfaces, and shake sentimental attachments to home decorations that may be putting you at risk, like lamps with unfastened cords, and worn rugs and carpet. If there is a risk of your toe catching, there is a risk you can fall.
The third recommendation is to maintain a balanced, nutritional diet to maintain the required glycaemic index level and consume an adequate intake of water every day to stay hydrated.
Funding for an assessment
Funding may be available for a home assessment under a Home Care Package or in some instances, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), depending on the types of funding in the plan.
A home assessment usually takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Recommendations for home modifications are usually outlined at the end of the home visit, and a written document is provided to whoever is helping that person at home, including their spouse or another family member, neighbour or friend, GP, or Support Professional and Coordinator.
For more information, or to download falls prevention resources, visit optimisealliedhealth.com.au or search ‘falls prevention’ on myagedcare.gov.au/