This week is Falls Prevention and National Eye Health Week (Monday 23 to Sunday 29 September).
Falls can have a devastating effect on the lives of individuals and their families. Physical injury can cause permanent disability and people’s lives change as they lose their confidence and independence.
The main aim of Falls Prevention Week is to give advice on how to prevent falls and encourage people to report their falls to a GP so they can explore the reason why this has happened. It might not just be due to tripping over something, there could be an underlying health issue.
Falls represent the most frequent and serious type of accident in people aged 65 and over.
The NHS Long Term Plan highlights how falls prevention schemes, including exercise classes and strength and balance training, can significantly reduce the likelihood of falls and are cost effective in reducing admissions to hospital.
Don’t be blind to the risk of falls.
Poor vision more than doubles your risk of taking a tumble.
Not only can impaired or low vision prevent you spotting hazards it can also affect your balance – just close your eyes for a moment or two and you’ll begin to feel yourself sway; in fact, sway increases 50 per cent or more with eyes closed compared with eyes open.
Our vision steadily declines as we age so it’s no surprise that poor vision is a major contributory factor to falls in the over-60s. Around one in three adults over 65 who live at home have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will experience falls more frequently.
Falls can be distressing and impact on your quality of life. In extreme cases fall related injuries can even lead to death. More than five thousand people in the UK died as a result of a fall in 2017.
Three quarters of older people who suffer a fall as a result of poor vision had a visual impairment that was easily correctable. This could be a simple as getting a new prescription for your glasses or having cataract surgery.
Regular sight tests are important for everyone to keep your eyes and vision healthy. Sight tests are free for the over 60s as they are paid for by the NHS. If you require prescription eyewear talk to your dispensing optician about appropriate uses for your glasses. If you have more than one pair, it can sometimes be confusing deciding which pair to wear for which task. A simple coding system such as putting a red dot on your reading glasses – red for reading – could help prevent vision impairment because you’re wearing the wrong glasses.