If you are over 65 years old, you have a one in three chance of falling this year. For people aged 80 and over, the risk increases to one in two (ACC, 2012). Read on to find out more about falls, how to prevent falls and what Resonance Podiatry© is doing to help.
By Anita Kay and Lisa Whiteman, Resonance Podiatry©, Podiatry and Gait labs, New Zealand
Falling over happens to the best of us and might just seem like an embarrassing inconvenience! However, injuries directly resulting from a fall are the leading cause of hospitalisation, and one of the top three causes of injury-related death, in New Zealand (ACC, 2012). Also the fear of having a fall can be debilitating and lead to severe restrictions in activity and social interaction.
Currently the likelihood of having a serious fall in later life steadily increases, especially over the age of 65. Older people’s vulnerability and longer recovery periods make falls a particularly serious threat to their health and functioning (The National Strategy, 2005).
Although falls are very common among people aged 65 years and over, we know that they are not a natural part of ageing. There is also strong evidence to indicate that many falls can be prevented (ACC, 2012).
Tackling a ‘sloppy slipper’ issue
Slippers, the name says it all really! Research has indicated that slippers, and footwear with at least one undesirable feature (e.g. no fastening), are likely to contribute to falls (Menz & Sherrington, 2003). Interestingly it also appears that going barefoot or just wearing socks may also increase the risk of having a fall (Kelsey et al, 2010).
What is Resonance Podiatry© doing?
Resonance Podiatry© is instigating a ‘sloppy slipper’ campaign in which anybody can ‘trade in’ their unsafe slippers for new, safer, slippers or indoor shoes. Sloppy slippers can include anything from slippers with no fastenings, trodden down backs, worn out soles or just really old slippers.
Although causes of falls are multifaceted, this is one way to raise awareness about falls from a podiatry perspective. Since the most common place for a fall to occur is in the home, including residential care settings, where slippers are commonly worn, it is a good place to start making small changes.
Those who are not sure whether their slippers are ‘sloppy’ should be encouraged to visit their podiatrist to assess whether the slippers potentially could increase the risk of a fall.
Resonance Podiatry© utilises Formthotics™ to provide extra foot support and biomechanical control. Formthotics were the prefabricated orthotic of choice in a recent study into the ‘effectiveness of a multifaceted podiatry intervention to prevent falls in older people with disabling foot pain’ (Spink et al 2011).
This study demonstrated that the use of Formthotics, along with some other relatively simple interventions, could be effective in reducing falls. It is thought that the Formthotics may have positively affected balance “by improving foot stability and enhancing plantar sensory feedback – and by reducing plantar pressure and foot pain” (Spink et al 2011). Further research into the effectiveness of Formthotics
What else can you do to reduce your risk of having a fall?
Make your home as safe as possible. Below are just a few starting points:
- Don’t leave clutter on the floor or stairs
- Firmly anchor or remove loose mats, or mats with curled up edges
- Install grab rails around the home, especially around steps
- Install night lights in hallways if you get up during the night
Also ensure you have:
- Regular eye examinations
- A medications review with your doctor
- Any foot problems examined and treated by a registered podiatrist
About Resonance Podiatry
Resonance Podiatry specialise in the management of foot, ankle, leg and knee pain, sports injury and rehabilitation. They have a number of practices across New Zealand. To contact Resonance, call 04 233 9110 or find them online.
Further information about falls prevention can be found online by doing a search for ‘ACC preventing falls – information for older people’ or here.
If your medical practice has an interesting case study using Formthotics that you would like to share, please email email@example.com, we’d like to hear from you!
ACC (2014) ‘Preventing falls - information for older people’ [Accessed 31 March 2014] Available from: http://www.acc.co.nz/preventing-injuries/at-home/older-people/information-for-older-people/
Kelsey, J., Procter-Gray, E., Nguyen, U., Li, W., Kiel, DP. & Hannan, M. (2010) ‘Footwear and Falls in the Home Among Older Individuals in the MOBILIZE Boston Study’, Footwear Sci. 2(3):123-129
Menz, HB. & Sherrington, C. (2003) ‘An evaluation of footwear worn at the time of fall-related hip fracture’, Age Ageing. 32(3): 310-314
Spink, M., Menz, H., Fotoohabadi, M., Wee, E., Landorf, K., Hill, K. & Lord, S. (2011) ‘Effectiveness of a multifaceted podiatry intervention to prevent falls in community dwelling older people with disabling foot pain: randomised controlled trial’, BMJ, 342:d3411.
The National Strategy 2005-2015 (2005) ‘Preventing injury from falls’, Accident Compensation Corporation.