Falls Prevention with Occupational Therapy

There are many factors that increase the risk of a person falling. These factors can be divided into internal and external factors.

Internal factors are factors to do with your physical and/or cognitive state. This includes but not limited to poor general strength especially in your legs, poor sensation in your feet which is common in peripheral neuropathy frequently caused by diabetes, poor eyesight, dizziness which can be caused by some medications and poor insight to your own safety. 

External factors are factors outside of your body such as your surroundings. For instance, a slippery floor, a cluttered house with mats and cables which one can easily trip over, and an uneven or cracked footpath. Even inappropriate shoes such as high heels that do not give much stability, pants that are too long, or an inappropriate mobility aid which does not give you sufficient support can cause you to fall.

Occupational therapists play an important role in falls prevention.

They assess your home environment to seek out various falls hazards and then make recommendations to address these hazards. Some of these recommendations may include:

  • Neatly tucked away cables
  • Replacement of slippery floor mats with sticky mats
  • Installing rails in the bathroom, toilet and on stairs
  • Installing night lights
  • Recommending appropriate height chairs with arm rests so it is easier to stand up from the chair

The way you perform your daily tasks is also assessed by the occupational therapist. These tasks include dressing yourself, hanging your laundry, cooking and taking things in and out of the cupboard or off the shelf. Examples of recommendations to do these things safely are as follows:

  • Sit down when putting your pants on
  • Use a clothes rack if the clothes line is too high for your safety
  • Don’t carry too many things at once during meal preparation
  • Objects that you most often take in and out of the cupboard should be placed at a comfortable height so that you don’t have to tip toe or bend down to get them.

Some of these recommendations to reduce your risk of falling may seem like common sense but they are seldom implemented. Our patterns of doing things have been ingrained in us since a young age when our body could cope with a lot more strain. However, we fail to change our behaviours when our body ages and thus increases our risk of falling.

Occupational therapists play a pivotal role in reducing your risk of falling by shining a light on these hazards and addressing them.

Learn more about falls prevention here.