Falls are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the elderly. Recent falls figures suggest that 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 have a fall each year, resulting in fractures and dislocations of the hip, leg and ankle, as well as severe head injuries.
Aside from medical factors that may increase the risk of having a fall, foot problems are the main causes of falls in the elderly and can be prevented through proper care and regular visits to a podiatrist. Foot problems that can increase the risk of falls are difficulty walking, arthritis and pain. These issues arise from a decrease in muscle strength, toe deformities and decreased range of motion in the joints of the foot.
Preventing falls is possible through proper care of your feet and through regular consultation with a podiatrist. Our Melbourne podiatrists can assess your risk of a fall and treat any issues with your feet to reduce the overall risk of falls.
Here are our Melbourne Podiatrists top tips for preventing falls in the elderly:
1. Wear properly fitted shoes
Avoid high heels, thongs or open toed sandals and go for shoes with low heel, sturdy sole that offer more stability. Your feet change over time, so it is worth going and getting a new fitting to ensure you are wearing the right shoes for your feet. If you have toe deformities or bunions you may need to get a shoe with a wider toe box to accommodate for these issues and relieve the pressure on these areas.
2. Wear your shoes in the house
Avoid walking around in barefoot, socks or slippers. As you get older your feet become less sensitive and you can easily step on something around the house and injure your feet without realising. Socks and slippers can be slippery on wooden boards or tiles so being in shoes with good grip will reduce your risk of falls.
Nothing beats a good walk for maintaining your joint flexibility and muscle strength. If you are able to get out, a 15 minute walk in safe conditions will help to reduce falls. Your podiatrist can provide you with some safe and gentle exercises to maintain and improve balance, stability and range of motion in your joints.
4. Nail care
Nails become thicker as you get older and thus become a lot harder to trim. This is also usually exacerbated by a decrease in muscle strength and flexibility, which limits your ability to reach down to your feet to cut your nails. Nails can easily become ingrown or infected or cause other issues when they get squished up in shoes. If you have trouble cutting your own nails, be sure to see a podiatrist for help.
5. Keep your feet clean
Wash your feet daily in warm soapy water and take extra care to dry in between the toes. Applying some methylated spirits or tea tree oil between the toes will help to reduce any moisture that can build up in between the toes, as well as prevent infection.
6. Check for hazards
Removing hazards that arise in everyday life at home is the easiest thing you can do to prevent falls. Be sure to tidy up electrical cords, loose rugs and slippery floors to reduce your risk of falling.
If you are unsure of whether or not you or a relative is at risk of falls due to foot problems, it is best to see one of our Melbourne podiatrists for a thorough assessment of your feet.