One in three New Zealand adults over the age of 65 have at least one fall every year - and the consequences can be devastating. Falls are the cause of 85% of traumatic brain injuries in the elderly. Fractures resulting from falls, which can affect up to one in five people in a residential care setting, most often affect the hip - which can greatly impact a person’s independence and may see between 30-60% of sufferers never recover their pre-fracture mobility levels. Hip fractures resulting from falls are even a strong predictor for death, with 27% of those aged over 75 years passing away within the first year of their falls, and with 7% of these passing away within 30 days.
Simply put: falls in older adults are serious, with severe consequences for the health of ourselves or our loved ones. The good news is that falls can be prevented, and there’s a lot that can be done to reduce your risk of falling - and all the negative consequences that follow. Here’s what you should know about falls, and how our podiatrists are working to help reduce the risk of falling for our patients across Tauranga from the comfort of their own home.
The Falls Cycle
One of the reasons that falls prevention is so important is to help stop the falls cycle - or break it if it has already started. The falls cycle describes a common chain of events where having a fall creates the natural fear of falling again, which leads to reduced confidence and engaging in less physical activity as a way to help prevent falls. This means that muscle strength, balance and coordination are reduced, which then further increases a person’s risk of falling. Then, when the next fall occurs, the cycle restarts and continues.
Who Is Most At Risk Of Falling?
The cause of a fall can vary greatly and is often multifactorial. For some, it may be the way that their slipper, which is slightly too large for their feet, catches the foot of their coffee table. For others, poor eyesight paired with inaccurately taking their blood pressure medication can leave them feeling lightheaded on standing, leading to a fall. Risk factors can include:
- Weakness in the feet or legs
- Problems with balance or coordination
- Poor eyesight
- Taking four or more medications
- Environmental hazards - ranging from poor lighting to carpets that catch the feet
- Foot or leg pain - which can change a person’s gait and throw them off
- Poor footwear choices
- Depression and mood disorders
As per the falls cycle, having already had a fall is also a big risk factor, with over 8% of people that have one fall going on to have another.
How To Prevent A Fall
Preventing a fall means identifying what your individual risk factors are, and working to reduce each one. For some, this may look like restoring some mobility and strength in their legs to help improve their balance, coordination and gait (the way they walk). For others, it may mean ensuring that their feet are well supported by good shoes while removing any tripping hazards from their home environment.
In order to understand the risk factors and take action on them, a comprehensive falls assessment must be completed - which is where our podiatrists come in. Our senior podiatrist and falls expert, Dr Angela Brenton-Rule, has developed a unique falls assessment that thoroughly examines your falls history, includes a footwear assessment, muscle strength testing, joint motion testing, postural stability & balance testing, foot pain or problem assessment, and more.
The results of your falls assessment are collated into a tailored treatment plan that we can start actioning with you immediately. Your progress is monitored, and your falls risk is reassessed periodically to check for any changes and new risks that we can help you manage. Our goal is not only to help reduce your risk of falling but to improve your confidence and satisfaction on your feet so you can stay mobile, independent and doing the things you love.
Dr Angela Brenton-Rule
Angela is a registered podiatrist and the former Head Of School at New Zealand’s School of Podiatry. She has a specialist interest in older adults, understanding the impact that foot problems have on a person's quality of life and their ability to keep active and independent. Angela's passion for preventing falls has seen her become the second podiatrist in New Zealand to ever achieve a doctoral degree that looked at the foot and ankle characteristics associated with falls in people with rheumatoid arthritis in New Zealand.
Leading Falls Assessments In Tauranga
We’re proud to be leading our region in home-based and mobile podiatry falls assessments and helping older kiwis stay safe, comfortable and confident on their feet. If you’ve recently had a fall, are concerned about falling, or are aged over 65 years, we highly recommend having your falls risks assessed and managed. We come to you - so we can help even if you currently feel nervous when you’re on your feet.
We’re here to help. Book your falls assessment by calling our team on 07 571 2233.