Here are some commonly asked questions that may assist you to solve any problems that you have:

I have noticed that my friend (or spouse or parent) is losing their balance or falling more often these days. I am worried about them but I do not know how to help them?

Losing balance or falling is a problem. Sometimes people might incorrectly believe that losing their balance or falling is just part of ageing, but there are many factors that influence balance, for example, medications. The best thing is for the person to see their doctor or health professional to help them.

I have noticed that my friend (or spouse or parent) is losing their balance or falling more often these days, but they refuse to do anything about it. When I bring it up, they say they will “take more care”. They will not even tell their doctor. I am worried about them but I do not know what to do?

Falling may be due to factors other than ‘not taking care’. Unfortunately, taking more care is usually not enough to prevent a fall. But it can be difficult for an older person to tell their doctor, friends or family that they have been losing their balance or falling, because this is not how they see themselves.

One way to approach this is to consider the important and meaningful things in their life that reflects who they are. For example, for older people this might be keeping up with their grandchildren, socialising with friends, gardening, keeping their independence, or just doing what they are doing and enjoying life. You could approach the subject by asking, “How can you keep doing the things that are important to you?”

What are the major causes of falls?

The most common causes of falls include weak muscles, unstable balance, dizziness, vision problems, side effects from medications (such as dizziness and confusion) and environmental hazards (such as slippery floors and loose rugs). See the risk factors page for further information.

You can complete a self assessment to determine if you are at risk of falling. This will provide you with a printable report that you can take to your next doctors appointment (or other health professional).

What kinds of walking aids are available and whom should I talk to about getting the right one?

A whole range of walking aids are widely available, ranging from simple walking sticks to fancy types of walkers and wheelchairs. Any walking aid should be carefully matched to your particular needs. It must be measured to the right size and provide the optimal level of stability without creating too much dependency. This is best done by an experienced provider, such as a physiotherapist. When used properly, these aids can dramatically improve mobility and safety.

Physiotherapists can be accessed privately or via community services such as Day Therapy Centres. Contact the Australian Physiotherapy Association on (08) 8362-1355 orwww.physiotherapy.asn.au. Local day therapy centres can be accessed via Commonwealth Carelink on 1800-052-222 or www.carelinksa.asn.au/

What can I do?

A whole range of factors can contribute to you having a fall. A thorough assessment by your GP, or Practice Nurse, a Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist is recommended to determine your level of risk. Factors can include medication side effects, vision problems, weak muscles, dizziness and environmental factors such as slippery floors and loose rugs.

Physical activity is also very important, so be physically active everyday. Whatever your age, aim to do 30 minutes of activity at least 5 times a week if possible. The activity should make you breathe a bit faster and your heart pump a bit harder, but you should still be able to talk while doing the activity. You can break it up into 10 minute blocks and as you become fitter you can do it for longer. Better still, do some balance and strength training.

If falling is common, how come older people generally do not talk about it?

Falling is something that older people do not generally talk about. This is similar to other issues like incontinence or depression. But just like with depression, over time the more that people talk about it, the safer people will feel to discuss their own concerns about falling.

What can I say to my friend (spouse or parent) to encourage them to attend strength and balance training?

There are many benefits to attending strength and balance training and it perhaps is not necessary to mention to them that attending training is good to prevent falls. You could talk about the many other benefits of strength and balance training, such as feeling good and maintaining their independence. People get a lot of enjoyment out of attending, particularly the socialising aspect. You can assure them that it would not be harmful for them.

How do I know if a strength and balance class will be suitable for me?

Many day therapy centres or organisations that have strength and balance classes or any exercise classes regularly perform evaluations or assessments of their clients before the clients start. This is done to ensure that the program is best suited to them.

You can discuss with your physiotherapist that you would like to start to go to an exercise class and they will be able to advise you as to what would be the most suitable for you.

If you have a question that has not been answered here, please speak to your GP/Doctor or Allied Health Professional such as a Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Pharmacist or Optometrist.