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Reducing Falls

Elderly lady walking with stickVision loss can be a major contributing factor to falls. A fully sighted person is still at risk of having a fall, but this risk increases significantly with a reduction in vision or visual field changes.

Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration, Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy, Retinitis Pigmentosa, Strabismus, Anisometropia, significant refractive error, Retinal Dystrophies – the list is endless – are all conditions or ocular situations that may affect field, contrast and depth perception. Every individual manages differently and there is a different challenge each time.

Some people find that dealing with reduced visual field is common sense and make adaptations to move their head and carefully check all around them before walking, crossing roads, or using stairs. Other people may find that dealing with loss of contrast is far more challenging and find determining the end of a step far more difficult to manage.

Depth perception is difficult to manage as our brains do not adapt quickly, when older, to changes that in childhood would have almost gone unnoticed with such rapid adaptations.

Caution, common sense, and slowing down, are all sensible measures for an individual to help prevent falls. However, in the circumstances of vision loss or visual impairment, they are even more necessary and other factors on top of these, should be considered, investigated and advice given.

Reducing falls infographic, text below

Bigger, Bolder, Brighter is the rule of thumb with low vision, and can be applied when it comes to fall prevention also.

Bigger – this may mean updating glasses so visual acuity is as good as possible.
Small items should be moved up or out of the way if possible.
Bolder – the outline of steps and pathways should be bolder if possible.
Darker objects on a lighter background (eg. light carpet) are always much easier to see than pale items on light carpet.
Brighter – increase lighting where possible to make the area lighter, brighter and easier to see. Pathways and corridors should be well lit.

Elderly lady with stick being assisted with walking

Trends in fall-related hospitalisations, persons aged 65 years and over, 1998-99 to 2011-12

Understanding which falls and which populations are at risk of the significant consequences of falls is vital for the targeting resources in the future and evaluating the impact of fall prevention strategies.

This report describes the epidemiology of fall-related hospitalisations over a fourteen year period in NSW from 1998 to 2012 by four key indicators:

1) all fall-related hospitalisations,
2) injury hospitalisations,
3) fracture hospitalisations, and
4) non-fracture hospitalisations.
Trend across LHDs are reported to inform falls prevention plans and service planning at the localĀ  health district level.

The report can be accessed here

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