Staying steady

Staying steady

Staying steady

Keep active and reduce your risk of falling. The Leading care Company ensure that our carer will give you physical activities that keeps you get more energy and and feel more happy.

Information and advice you need to help you love later life. We’re Age UK and our goal is to enable older people to love later life.

We are passionate about affirming that your later years can be fulfilling years. Whether you’re enjoying your later life or going through tough times, we’re here to help you make the best of your life.

This information guide has been prepared by The Leading Care Company and contains general advice only, it should not be relied on as a basis for any decision or action and cannot be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The Leading Care Company Neither nor any companies mentioned in this article accepts any liability arising from its use and it is the reader’s sole responsibility to ensure any information is up to date and accurate.

This article about Staying Steady cover the following

  • What this guide is about
  • Improving your fitness
  • Improving your strength and balance
  • Getting started and keeping it up
  • Eyesight, hearing, and balance
  • Combined sight and hearing problems
  • Managing your medicines
  • Looking after your feet
  • Keeping your bones strong
  • Checking your home environment
  • Personal alarms
  • Tackling the fear of falling
  • Help from the NHS
  • Eight steps for staying steady
  • Useful organizations

What this article is about?

There are lots of simple things you can do to help you stay steady on your feet. Whether you’re fit and active, have difficulty walking and getting around, or are worried about falling, this guide has information for you.

General health and wellbeing can make a big difference in your quality of life, whatever your age. Eating well and keeping fit is important. But there are also specific things you can do to improve your strength and balance, which are set out in this guide. Building and maintaining your strength and balance can help you carry on doing the things you enjoy.

As far as possible, the information given in this guide is applicable across the UK.

Improving your fitness

As you get older, it’s important to be as active as you can. Regular physical activity will help you maintain strength, flexibility and energy levels so that you can carry on doing the things you enjoy and stay independent. Try taking a brisk walk, for example, or doing some gardening or dancing.

If you need help moving about or don’t usually take any exercise, doing any amount of activity is better than nothing. It’s never too late to start and you can build up gradually.

The Government advises older people to:

  • aim to be active every day
  • limit or break up the time you spend sitting still
  • the build-up to two and a half hours per week of moderate-intensity activities (those that get you breathing harder and your heart pumping faster) starting with bouts of ten minutes or more
  • take part in activities that improve muscle strength at least twice a week – these are repetitive activities that focus on particular muscles
  • engage in some activities that improve balance and co-ordination twice a week – this is particularly important if you have had a fall or are afraid of falling

Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to do much, to begin with; start slowly and you’ll soon notice the difference.

Improving your strength and balance

Activities that improve muscle strength in your legs, arms, back, shoulders and chest are particularly important as you get older. They can make it easier to get up out of a chair and, because they improve your posture, co-ordination, and balance, they’re an effective way to reduce the risk of falling. Moving about more strengthens your legs and makes you less prone to falling.

The kinds of activities that will help your strength and balance are:

  • using the stairs frequently
  • slowly and repeatedly rising to a standing position from a chair
  • walking, playing badminton, taking part in dancing, or yoga

Exercises that improve your balance – often known as balance training – can be especially helpful if you have an illness that causes joint pain, as they help overcome stiffness and unsteadiness. Best of all, they can make it easier to get out and about without needing to have someone with you.

You can also find free exercise guides and videos online. For example, NHS Choices provides downloadable exercise guides for older people. Arthritis Care produces a free booklet called Exercise and arthritis

Make sure that any exercise classes, or exercises described in guides or videos, are suitable for you and that you feel comfortable doing the exercises. If you’re not sure, or if you have a heart condition or haven’t been exercising regularly, speak to your GP first about what activities may best suit you. See ‘Help from the NHS’

Getting started and keeping it up

Once you know what kind of physical activities are right for you, start gently and build up gradually. Aim to do a little bit more every day.

Most people find being more active easier than they expected – and more enjoyable. The more you enjoy an activity, the easier it is to keep it up, and that’s when you’ll really feel the benefits. You may be surprised by how much you can achieve.

Exercises that make your legs stronger help prevent falls. Start by doing a balance-training exercise and building up from 10 to 15 repetitions. A simple balance exercise is a heel raise, where you rise slowly onto your toes and back down again. You can hold on to the back of a chair or the wall, or have someone supporting you if you need to.

If you live in a care home and need help to move about, you could ask about starting an activities program with the help of your activities co-ordinator. It should take into account any medical conditions and build on what you can already do.

The day after you have done some exercises your muscles may feel a bit stiff. This is normal and shows you are benefiting from the activity.

You should always begin any exercise with a warm-up to prepare your body and finish with cool-down exercises. If you experience chest pain or feel faint, stop exercising immediately and contact your GP.

Eyesight, hearing, and balance

Vision and hearing play a vital role in balance and movement.

Eyecare
Glasses fitted with bifocal or varifocal lenses can make objects and surfaces appear closer than they really are. This could cause you to trip or lose your balance, particularly on stairs. Ask your optician for advice.

If you care for someone who is unable to recognize or communicate sight problems, for example, someone with dementia, remember to arrange regular eye tests for them. You can ask the optician about using special non-verbal tests. Encourage the person to wear glasses if they need them and make sure the lenses are cleaned frequently.

If you or anyone you care for finds it difficult to get to the optician for health reasons, look for an optician who offers a home visits service. You can search for opticians near you on the NHS Choices website.

Hearing problems
The risk of hearing loss increases as you get older, but people often wait several years after first noticing that their hearing is deteriorating before raising it with their GP.

Talk to your GP as soon as you notice that your hearing has deteriorated, as a problem with your ears can affect your balance. If there’s no medical reason, such as a build-up of wax or an ear infection, you can be referred for a hearing test and, if necessary, prescribed an NHS digital hearing aid in one or both ears.

If you care for someone who has been prescribed a hearing aid make sure they wear it regularly as advised.

Combined sight and hearing problems

Particular difficulties can be caused when your hearing affects your balance and your sight problems can’t be corrected by wearing glasses.

Your local council’s sensory team can offer help and support. Following an assessment, their specialist staff will explain the help available. They may also offer mobility training, including giving advice on moving around at home and outdoors, and on how to keep as fit and active as you can.

Managing your medicine

Certain medicines, low blood pressure or poorly controlled diabetes can make you feel faint or dizzy. Let your GP or pharmacist know if you ever feel like this – they may need to check the dose or look at alternative medicines.

If you take medication, your GP should review your prescription regularly in case you no longer need it or the dose needs to be changed.

Alcohol can interact with some medicines and can affect your balance too. Check the leaflet that comes with your medicine for possible side effects.

Looking after your feet

Problems with your feet can stop you from getting out and about. They can also affect your balance and increase the risk of falling. So it’s important to report problems such as foot pain or decreased sensation in your feet promptly to your GP or practice nurse.

Keep your toenails short. If you’re finding it difficult to cut them yourself, try asking a friend or family member for help. Or contact your local Age UK to find out whether it offers a toenail-cutting service (there may be a charge).

If you have arthritis, you may find that trainers or well-cushioned shoes are more comfortable than ordinary shoes and offer support. But make sure the soles aren’t too thick, as you could feel unsteady if you can’t feel the floor beneath your feet. Ask your GP or chiropodist for advice.

These footwear tips can help you feel more confident on your feet.

  • Wear shoes that fit well. High-sided shoes with low heels and thin soles with a good grip are a good choice.
  • Avoid wearing sandals and shoes with high heels.
  • Wear slippers with a good grip, that fasten up. Loose or worn out slippers may cause you to trip.
  • Make sure your trousers or skirts don’t trail on the ground.
  • Always wear shoes or slippers. To avoid slips, don’t walk indoors in bare feet, socks or tights.

Keeping your bones strong

The strength of your bones makes a big difference to the effect of a fall. Regular weight-bearing exercise helps keep bones strong by forcing the bones in the lower half of your body to bear your full weight each time you move. Activities such as brisk walking, bowls, and tennis are weight-bearing, but swimming is not.

Calcium and vitamin D
You need calcium and vitamin D to build and maintain strong bones.

Good sources of calcium are dairy foods, fortified soya products and canned fish (with bones). It is also found in fortified breakfast cereals, white bread, pulses and nuts such as almonds.

There are food sources of vitamin D – salmon, sardines other oily fish, eggs, and fortified spreads. However, it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone and for many people, sunshine is the major source.

In spring and summer, most people can get enough vitamin D from short periods of daily sun exposure. Try to go outside every day without sun cream for short periods from March to October, exposing at least your forearms and hands to the sun. Don’t let your skin redden or burn.

In autumn and winter, the sun isn’t strong enough to produce vitamin D and most people won’t get enough from food, so it’s recommended that adults of all ages consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement of ten micrograms (10µg). You may need a supplement all year round if you spend most of the day indoors, have darker skin, or cover your skin for cultural reasons. If you think you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, speak to your GP or pharmacist.

Osteoporosis
If a minor bump or fall results in a broken bone, this could be because you have a condition called osteoporosis. This causes bones to become fragile and break more easily.

Your risk of osteoporosis is increased by:

  • history of osteoporosis in your family
  • your age – the older you are, the more likely you are to develop this condition
  • heavy drinking, smoking, and lack of exercise
  • some medications, such as long-term use of corticosteroid medications, anti-epileptic drugs, and some cancer treatments
  • early menopause or hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries for women
  • low levels of testosterone following surgery for some types of cancer for men

Checking your home environment

Looking out for things that could cause you to slip, trip or fall can make your home a safer place to live in. Although some of these points may seem obvious, it’s surprising how often they can be overlooked – so it’s worth checking them.

  • Do you have good lighting, particularly on the stairs?
  • Do you have a nightlight in the bedroom or a torch by the bed in case you need to get up in the night?
  • Are floors clear of trailing wires, wrinkled or fraying carpets, or anything else that you might trip or slip-on?
  • Are stairs and steps free of clutter?
  • Do you have handrails on both sides of the stairs?
  • Do you have a non-slip mat and a fitted handrail in the bath?
  • Do you have non-slip mats under rugs?
  • Does your pet wear a collar with a bell on? Pets can get under your feet, so be aware of where they are when you’re moving about.
  • Do you rely on a stepladder to reach high places? Always ask someone to help if you’re using a ladder and never stand on a chair.
  • Do you keep your garden paths clear and free from moss? Watch out for uneven paths and slippery surfaces as well. Carefully placed handrails and posts can be helpful if you need them. 

Suggestions for keeping safe at home

  • Avoid tasks such as cleaning windows or changing a light bulb if they make you feel dizzy or light-headed.
  • Move your head slowly to avoid dizziness if you have arthritis in your spine or neck.
  • Keep warm. Cold muscles don’t work as well as warm ones and may lead to accidents and injuries.
  • Take your time getting up, and then stand still for a moment to steady yourself before walking. Sitting or standing up too quickly can make you feel light-headed. Tensing your arms and legs a few times before getting up from a chair, or sitting on the side of the bed for a few minutes before standing up, can be helpful.
  • Speak to your GP you ever feel dizzy or if you need to use furniture for support when moving around your home.

Making small adjustments in your daily life doesn’t mean that you have to limit your activities. In fact, it can give you greater freedom and confidence.

Getting a home safety check
Contact your local council to find out if it offers home safety checks or a handyperson scheme. Some local Age UKs offer a handyperson scheme for older people who meet certain criteria, to assist with small repairs and identify home hazards

Alternatively, there may be a Home Improvement Agency (HIA) offering similar help locally. Contact Foundations, the national body for HIAs, or your local council

In Berkshire, contact your local Age Berkshire to find out if there’s a handyperson or HandyVan scheme in your area or contact Care and Repair Berkshire.

Personal alarms

Personal alarms allow you to call for help if you need it, for example, if you’re unwell or have a fall and can’t reach a telephone. You contact a 24-hour response centre by pressing a button on a pendant or wristband that you wear all the time. Staff at the emergency response centre will then call either your chosen contact person – a neighbour, relative or friend – or if the situation is more urgent, the emergency services.

Your local council may run a personal alarm scheme. Visit www.gov.uk/apply-for-community-alarm to search by postcode. PPP Taking Care Limited, a subsidiary of AXA PPP healthcare Group Limited, also provides Age UK branded personal alarms*. For more information about the service and the likely costs, call 0800 023 4821.

Telecare
If you’ve had a fall and are concerned about falling again, simple technology known as telecare can give you support. For example, a bed or chair sensor can detect if you’ve got up but haven’t returned within a set time, and automatically sends an alert to a carer or call centre in case you’ve fallen.

Speak to your local adult social services department to find out what your options are. See our free guide Adapting your home for more information about telecare or go to www.ageuk.org.uk/telecare.

Tackling the fear of falling

We all stumble or trip sometimes. But fear of falling can start to become a serious worry and can be quite difficult to deal with if not addressed quickly. Don’t give up on your physical activities because you’ve had a fall if you feel confident enough to keep doing them.

The anxiety may stem from having had a fall already, but it can play on your mind, even if you haven’t fallen before. This sometimes happens after a period of illness, which can leave you feeling weak and a bit unsure of yourself. As a result, you may become more cautious, limit what you’re willing to do, and lose confidence in carrying out daily tasks and activities. You may even stop wanting to go out on your own. Worrying in this way isn’t unusual, but it can make you anxious, isolated or depressed.

Fears about losing your independence can also make you reluctant to seek help. Perhaps you’re worried that people will think you’re unable to look after yourself properly, or that they’ll suggest you move into a care home.

It’s important not to let such thoughts stop you from getting help. A good fall prevention service will enable you to live as independent and enjoyable a life as possible. This is the case whether you’ve had a fall already or are concerned about falling and want to prevent it.

Talk to your GP. With their help or the help of your local falls prevention service, you can work out how to get your confidence back, improve your balance and strength, and reduce your risk of falling.

Help from the NHS

You should tell your GP if you’ve had a fall or start feeling unsteady, even if you feel fine otherwise. There could be many reasons for this and, equally, many different ways to help you feel confident again.

Your GP can check your balance and walking to see if they can be improved. With your agreement, your GP can refer you for a fall risk assessment. You may be referred to as the falls prevention service for your assessment, run by healthcare professionals with specialist training.

The purpose of the assessment is to:

  • listen to what you think the problem could be
  • try to work out what’s making you more likely to fall
  • agree to an action plan to reduce your risk of falling

This could include:

  • strength and balance exercises
  • having your home checked for hazards
  • checking your eyesight and the medicines you take
  • showing you how to get up safely if you fall
  • investigating any continence problems you have to make sure you don’t need to rush to the toilet

The plan should be designed to suit your individual needs and be regularly reviewed so that the healthcare professionals can see how you’re getting on.

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