Looking after feet to reduce the risk of falling

18 June 2013

Philip Hurst is National Development Manager - Health at Age UKfalls dancers

Anyone can trip or fall. If we are honest with ourselves, I wouldn’t mind betting that every one of us can remember an embarrassing moment where we stumbled in the street and carried on, pretending it didn’t happen and praying that no one saw. But as we age our risk of falling increases and the consequences can be devastating. We need to do all we can to reducing the risk of falling. An obvious, but curiously often overlooked, place to start is to look after our feet.

Falls Awareness Week, which this year takes place between 17th-21st June, is a wonderful way of raising awareness of the dangers of falling and what can be done to prevent it. It is not only people who are more at risk of falling who need to be more aware. All health and care professionals who come into contact with older people need to know what messages to give and how they can help .

Why is falling such a problem?
Falls cost lives and money.  Over 9,000 older people die every year as the result of a fall and 350,000 people aged 60+ are treated in hospital for falls every year in England alone. Add to this the impact of a fall and the resulting injuries, which can be life-changing, leaving many feeling isolated, anxious and reluctant to leave home, and it becomes ever harder to understand why preventing falls doesn’t have a much bigger profile when our focus is meant to be on improving quality and reducing cost.

Tips on looking after your feet
One of the simplest ways of looking after people’s feet is to ensure they wear well- fitting shoes and slippers as this ensures they are able to feel contact with the floor.

Encouraging people to do some basic foot and ankle exercises will also help to reduce the risk of falling as it improves strength and flexibility in feet.  Doing these movements regularly will stretch and strengthen toes and ankles and improve circulation in the feet.

Some things which the majority of us do without too much thought such as washing and drying our feet and keeping toe nails trimmed, can be so more difficult for people who are less able to reach and stretch. But it is important that everyone understands how important they are.

As part of Falls Awareness Week Age UK has a simple guide to looking after your feet and preventing falls

And to get the message out from the experts we are hosting an Age UK webinar on Falls and Feet on the 25th June 10-11am. It’s only one hour out of the day, but if you can’t make it, it will be available on demand afterwards. You can register here  to join.

With the timely reissue of NICE’s guidance on assessment and prevention of falls (http://www.nice.org.uk/CG021) it is important to pay attention to the practical things people can do for themselves to reduce their risk of falling. Our Falls Awareness Week theme aims to help to do just that.

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