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The real cost of a fall. And how to prevent it.

We probably all know an older person who has "had a fall". In fact, statistically it's very likely since falls, particularly in the elderly, are very common. They can be, although are not always by any means, very serious with bruised or broken hips, elbows or legs, and they can even be deadly.

They can also be very avoidable.

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 30% of people older than 65 and 50% of people older than 80 fall at least once a year[1]. In fact, falls are the most common cause of death from injury in the UK in the over 65s.

Common injuries are probably obvious; broken hips, legs, ribs, arms to name but a few. But the impact of the fall isn't always felt just in physical terms, indeed it can have much broader consequences.

Age UK research suggests Following a fall, an older person has a 50 per cent probability of having their mobility seriously impaired.

 

Following a fall, an older person has a 50 per cent probability of having their mobility seriously impaired.

This of course has a huge impact on the person, but also their families. A loss of mobility means dependence on other people to help out a lot, and when this falls on already busy families then feelings of "being a burden" can develop and be difficult to shake. And for those without families to depend on, a fall could mean a move into a retirement home.

Even less immediately serious physical injuries can have a lasting impact. A loss of confidence can be one of the most damaging mental or emotional consequences, causing wariness to exercise or undertake certain activities, which can begin a downward spiral.


What causes falls?

With such consequences, it's clearly important to understand the cause of falls, so that we can begin to put things in to place NOW to prevent them from happening to ourselves or loved ones. Don't wait for it to happen.

Causes of falls include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Problems with vision

  • Low blood pressure and heart disease, which can cause dizziness or fainting

  • Problems with balance

  • Muscle weakness

  • Poorly fitting or old, tatty footwear

  • Obstructions or trip hazards

  • Even poor lighting can cause a missed step


So what can be done? Well, the good news is that there are many things that can be done to prevent falls!


Firstly, get checked out

Ensuring your loved one can attend regular health check-ups, including vision, hearing and physical health monitoring can be of great help. Catch any health problems before they become major issues and have them addressed. A full check up might uncover blood pressure issues or something else that could easily result in a fall

Little things can make big differences too. Like making sure loved ones are able to open their curtains, or replace curtains with easier to manage blinds to ensure sufficient light can get into the home and perhaps take the time to review furniture layouts to reduce the risk of obstructions that could become trip hazards and cause a fall.


Stay active

Staying active is so key to overall health; regular gentle exercise can help keep muscles - including the heart - strong and improve balance.

According to nhs.uk, "many adults aged 65 and over spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down" which can lead to "higher rates of falls, obesity, heart disease and early death compared with the general population".[4] However, trials of certain exercise programmes have shown reductions in the risk of falling of between 35% and 54%[5], demonstrating the importance of maintaining a level of activity.

 

Tai chi can help balance and muscle strength and is practiced
regularly by elderly people in countries like Japan.

NHS guidelines suggest that:

  • Adults aged 65 & over should aim to be physically active every day;

  • Any activity is better than none. The more you do the better, even if it's just light activity, such as a gentle stroll;

  • It is also important to undertake activities that improve muscle strength, balance and flexibility - such as yoga or tai chi, which you can find many classes up & down the country suitable for older people, or gardening - at least twice each week;

  • If possible, "do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity" per week, such as brisk walking, dancing or riding a bike, "or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity if you are already active, or a combination of both."[6]


https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/physical-activity-guidelines-older-adults/#what-activities-strengthen-muscles
Examples of exercise routines are available here


Getting Outdoors

Gentle strolls can be the simplest way to get your exercise but even this can be a challenge if you have a health condition.

We often hear from elderly customers or people suffering from certain conditions like Arthritis, lymphedema and diabetes that they find it difficult to find footwear that doesn't cause pain. Swollen limbs and joints no longer fit into regular high street shoes, meaning that the condition sufferer can no longer get out and about.

Many female sufferers resort to buying men's footwear to provide extra width, which can impact on confidence when going out. Others buy shoes 1 or 2 sizes bigger to provide the extra width that they need, but this in turn becomes a trip hazard, increasing further their likelihood of a fall. You can find many examples of the above in the "What Our Customers Say" section of our website.

 

"After falling down the stairs last year and breaking a toe I realised I couldn't go on anymore squeezing myself into the wrong size shoes."

Mrs S.


Why is this so bad, except for the obvious?

Well, would you believe that, according to the University Hospitals of Leicester, 24,000 over-65s in the UK fall over at home every year because of poorly fitting footwear?[7] Men's shoes are made for men's feet and shoes that are too long result in loss of control and increase the likelihood of catching on an edge, lip or step.

In finding DB Wider Fit Shoes, our customers have been able to find shoes that offer the required width in their shoe size - making them far safer, especially around stairs, kerbs and even bumps on the pavement. And those who were buying men's shoes to get the width are able to choose from a huge range of feminine styles of all types, ensuring they can remain confident to get out of the house and keep active.

Sporty casual boots like classic ROCHEFORT offer comfort and support with style, and are perfect for walks, whilst STOKE features a double zip for front opening and easy foot entry and a stretch front panel to fit the shape of your foot.

Best-selling BRADWELL is available in 4 width fittings - EE, 4E, 6E & 8E - and opens wide to fit any foot, comes in a raft of coloured leathers and features double touch-strap fastening for flexible fit adjustment. Or for more active lifestyles, PAULINA or CLAUDIA offer modern leisure style in extra widths with differing features to suit different feet.


Variable Fitting Shoes

Need an orthotic? One foot swells while the other one doesn't? Fear not! Our Variable Width footwear could be just what you need to get out of the house without needing to buy 2 pairs of shoes.

These styles come with removable inner-soles. If one foot is more swollen, or you need to insert an orthotic, you can remove the inner-soles from the shoe, increasing the width and depth while the other remains the same size.

Read our guide to width-fittings


Replace those sloppy slippers

Slippers can be a cause of falls. That may sound strange or funny at first, but it really isn't.

Because many slippers have thinner soles for round the house wear, they can soon wear out, especially if you're homebound and spend a lot of time in them. And because slippers don't have stiffeners built into them they can become floppy and unsupportive, which makes them a real trip hazard, especially if you've already bought 1 size up to get the extra width your feet need!

If you've ever had slippers that have become worn and loose you'll know. They're a challenge to keep on your feet sometimes and particularly difficult when navigating staircases.

Our House Shoes could be the answer: they may look like slippers from the outside, but they have hidden features built-in to make them more comfortable and supportive.

Supportive back stiffeners provide improved stability and support whilst hard-wearing outsoles can be worn in- or outdoors. Individual styles have further features like seam-free toe-boxes to reduce rubbing, round & deep toe-boxes to give lots of room for toes, stretch uppers to mould to the shape of your foot or front-opening touch fastening straps to provide both easy access AND a secure fit.

But these features don't mean you need to compromise on style and comfort.

Take HOUGHTON - with stretch velour uppers, tough fastening straps for secure fit and available in a choice of fabric designs and colours. Or KEESTON, a warm & comfortable luxurious velour house shoe with pretty bow design and front opening design for easy access, with touch-fastening for secure fit.

All of the above are available in our 2V or 6V variable width fittings, meaning style and comfort for even the widest feet.

PITSFORD is a cute, contemporary style house shoe with polka dots that is super comfy and loafer style. MARTHA is smart enough to pass an outdoor shoe, whilst providing the all-day comfort of a House Shoe.


The verdict

Whilst we can't help with all the causes of falls, we can try to highlight the dangers of falls, suggest possible preventative measures and we can certainly aid people in avoiding falls through footwear-related problems.

By wearing well-fitting shoes or house shoes instead of "buying the next size up" to provide extra width you can reduce the chance of a fall around steps and bumps considerably. And comfortable footwear that doesn't squeeze, pinch or worse, can help us to get out of the house regularly, helping us to keep active, fit & healthy, while attractive wide-fitting shoes means we can step out in confidence.

Like many of our customers say, we provide life-changing comfort. It could just be life-saving too.

Browse all wide-fitting shoe styles now »

 

 

Citations


Other articles you may be interested in:

Life of the Party
Top 5 Ways to Keep Active