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May 30, 2011

Don’t Fall For It – Staying Upright has all kinds of Advantages

by Prue Miller

One of the more useful things I do while wandering the planet is work with the NSW Department of Health in their  Falls Prevention Program. I have been lucky enough to work with the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission’s Falls Prevention Network, doing my bit to try and help people NOT FALL OVER and on Friday several hundred people gathered over coffee and biscuits to see how we can improve the dreadful fall statistics, which needless to say trend upward when ageing bodies are involved.

Without a slew of cash its hard to avoid wearing glasses, larger jeans and frown lines, whereas conversely it costs very little to stay upright.

The thing about falls in later life is that there are often absolutely no warning signs. A trip, stumble, slip up or slip down can happen in a second, although the physical and the mental results can last for months. So we have to stay in front of the game if we are to avoid all of that mess, expense, bruising  and hospital gowns that make your backside look huge.

Three of my Favourite Do’s

DO take the time to shuffle your handbag, briefcase, shopping and mobile phone so that one hand can grab the banister/handrail/arm of a friend or complete stranger in a pinch. 

DO reconsider bi-focal lenses, they are a proven factor in falls and in any case, have two sets means double the shopping for frames which is a positive in itself. Of course this does behoove the wearer to always have the right pair close at hand….

DO stick at taking calcium with the Vitamin D supplement, or indeed, stick at the Vitamin D supplement, it is proven to assist in the balancing process.

Three of my Favourite Do Nots

DO NOT walk while texting. It’s distracting, rude and detracts from your spacial awareness (sounds like I know what I’m talking about, huh?)

DO NOT wear shoes and boots that look hot but could kill you – not because they are unstable (although that doesn’t help) but because your crazy impulse purchase shoes hurt SO much that you can develop an odd way of walking/limping to ease the pain, and all you can think of is how much your feet hurt, and all you want is somewhere to sit down somewhere, anywhere, even the loo, or on the bonnet of that car, or maybe on that bike rack … and then you’ll spy a suddenly available café table and make a dash for it (Halleluiah! You can kick of the damn shoes sneakily behind the tablecloth) when BAM! and that’s when you’ll fall down.

DO NOT give up dancing, or going to the gym or walking a straight line. Most people believe that balance is something that you do without thinking about it. That would be wrong. It’s just that we do it all the time, so we forget that our inner ear is working out the forward-backward-side to side motion, and our eyes are working out if we’re walking up hill, or are in an airplane,(or have a large glass of cabernet in one hand),  and our skin is working out which bits are touching ground and our muscles and joints tell us what parts of our bodies are flailing about. Then we ‘think’ about all that info, make corrections and somehow manage to stay upright (most of the time). But we have to keep educating all those sensors – we have to keep them active and responsive, which is achieved by using the balance senses as often as possible – which is why dancing and walking and yoga-ing are all good value. The cab sav may be the hole in this plan.

Friday the 27th of May was the Falls Prevention Network Forum in Sydney, which I was honoured to address and I was very pleased to see hundreds of very keen faces in the audience. I met with the Minister for Health JillianSkinner, and will shamelessly post the picture of us together at a later date, because I thought my green jacket was yummy!


There were of course some great trade exhibits at the event,  some of the bits that caught my eye was a padded flooring system called Kradal – which I would love to have at home as much as hospital because it is so giving underfoot;  Statina slip resistant socks ( and  Prius slip resistant pressure stockings (fantastic!) ; the Proximate alarm systems that help you keep track of when someone is getting out of their chair or bed; and absolutely ALL of the products that help with daily living activities from Surgical Synergies  online 

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