Image: Central West Health physiotherapist Richard Harris.

Every day, more than 130 older Queenslanders have a fall requiring medical attention, even though falls are mostly preventable.

Central West Hospital and Health Service physiotherapist Richard Harris said falls were the top reason for injury-related hospitalisations in over-65s.

“But there is no reason to fall victim to such injuries because there are a range of activities and precautions you can take to help avoid them,’’ he said.

With Seniors Week being observed across Queensland from 17–25 August, this was a good time for older Central West residents to take stock and consider ways of minimising their risk of falls, he said.

Mr Harris said the Central West Hospital and Health Service Allied Health team was active in the prevention of falls and associated harm in communities across the Central West.

“Community Health provides face-to-face aged care assessments and a gerontology service by referral, via telehealth,’’ he said.

“A key strategy in assisting with the prevention of falls is the Community Health team’s coordination of a patient-centred approach.

“Patient-centred management includes individually-tailored exercise programs with physiotherapy and occupational therapy services.’’

Mr Harris said planned sessions were carried out under supervision at Central West Health facilities and during home visits.

“We can even follow up with phone calls to help participants maintain engagement with the program,’’ he said.

“Participants benefit from an increase in strength and balance, resulting in significant reductions to the risk of falls.

“This can help people remain in their own homes for longer and to feel a sense of confidence in their independence.

“The good news is there are also steps that individuals can take themselves to reduce the risk of a fall.

“For instance, falls can be prevented by staying healthy and active.

“Maintaining strength and balance with activities like tai chi, dancing, yoga group exercise or gym sessions are some of the ways to reduce the risk.

“It is important to talk to your local health professional about how they can help you stay active and independent.’’

Mr Harris said individuals also could take steps to reduce their risk of falling by identifying any hazards in the home which might cause them to trip or slip.

“Keeping on top of foot problems is another simple way to prevent falling,’’ he said.

“Foot problems can interfere with simple day-to-day activities, such as walking, housework and shopping, and can restrict mobility.

“If you do not look after your feet, this can lead to serious injury.

“Making simple home modifications also can be a big help. In fact, the installation of grab rails has been shown to decrease the fall rate by 30 per cent.

“It is important to remember that falls are not an inevitable part of ageing.

“Falls have a big impact on mobility and independence, so it’s worth taking some time to focus on prevention.’’

Mr Harris said some handy hints included:

  • Keep paths free of moss and leaves, and remove any obstacles such as gardening tools, hoses and small pots.
  • If you have a damaged public footpath near your home, take a photo and send it with a letter or email describing the location and type of hazard to your local council.
  • Move frequently used items to within easy reach to reduce the need for ladders.
  • Keep a sturdy, broad-based stepladder with handrails handy.

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