What walking aid can help prevent falls?


Whatever your age, it’s never easy to accept having to use a visible walking aid to get around. However, this type of device is particularly effective in preventing falls. Provided, of course, that you choose the help best suited to your situation.

In the private sphere, accidents in the home remain the main source of falls among the elderly, while among young people, falls are mainly linked to leisure activities.

What are the consequences of falls?

In Belgium, the 2018 health survey* reported that 17.4% of people aged 65 and over had suffered a fall in the 12 months preceding the survey (2.4 times on average). There are marked differences between the country’s three regions:

  • 24.5% in the Brussels Region
  • 17.4% in the Flemish Region
  • 15.6% in the Walloon Region

We also learn that :

  • the incidence of falls is higher in women (20.9%) than in men (12.8%).
  • the incidence of falls also increases with age
    • 12.3% in the 65-74 age bracket
    • 22.9% in the over 75s

However, falls among the elderly are not followed up with advice. This explains why a third (34.1%) of elderly people who have suffered a fall have not taken any steps to prevent them afterwards! A larger proportion (45%) regret not having received any advice to help them limit the risk of falling in the future. However, many people would have preferred to receive this type of advice first and foremost from their GP (24.7%), close friends and family (18.7%) or a nurse (16.3%).

* https://www.sciensano.be/sites/default/files/ai_report_2018_fr.pdf

How can older people be advised?

Given the ageing of the population, it is essential to inform and raise awareness among the elderly and those around them about falls prevention. Age, state of health and living environment are major risk factors in the prevention of injuries and falls. It is therefore useful to implement preventive measures to better protect the elderly at each of these levels.

The risk factors to be treated as a priority concern :

  • living environment: home, nursing home, institutions, etc.
  • lifestyle
  • health (taking medication, visual or cognitive impairment, lack of balance, etc.)

Falls prevention and home or living environment

Falls can occur at any time. At home or at your place of residence, it’s a good idea to carry out an audit of everything that could represent a risk factor for falls in the elderly. When furniture clutter or the presence of obstacles in cramped spaces can pose a problem. When carpets are strewn all over the floor, when interior circulation is a little complicated. When there are too many doors to go through. When the floor is slippery, the stairs dangerous or the room difficult to access, etc. Once identified, all these risks or potential problems must be resolved or reduced. It can be as simple as installing a safety rail at staircase level, replacing certain floor coverings, installing a grab bar in the bathroom, a raised toilet seat, improved lighting, and so on.

Next, the elderly person needs to be helped to move around safely, using a walking aid. Older people may not be too keen on the idea, but motivating them to use one is enough to radically change their minds. Regaining confidence in their own steps, getting around without help, and being able to carry out their activities on their own, often puts a smile on their faces. By no longer being afraid of falling, these elderly people can also regain a good self-image and regain their mobility.

What kind of indoor walking aids can you offer?

To make it easier for the elderly to adopt a walking aid, you need to offer them equipment with a compact design, a lightweight structure and easy maneuverability at home. Canes, walkers and rollators with wheels are the most suitable for indoor use. They provide support and stability and are easy to store in the home. Thanks to their wheels, they allow you to walk more smoothly and move effortlessly, and are easy to maneuver, even in the smallest of rooms (bathroom, WC, hallways, kitchen, bedroom, etc.). They quickly become a companion you don’t want to be without, whether you’re sitting in your chair, going to the toilet, cooking or getting into bed.

In this respect, one of the latest indoor walkers on wheels, the Wheeleo®, is proving invaluable. Compact, lightweight, stable, height-adjustable and particularly easy to handle, it offers many advantages. Not only does it leave one hand free at all times, it also stays in place when released. Which is very practical. By standing next to the person, there is no risk of falling. And it’s easy to take back control when you want to continue moving around.

What kind of walking aids can they use outdoors?

If the person doesn’t get out much and rarely moves around, it may not be worth proposing another walking aid. The one she already uses at home or in her living space will probably suffice. For people aged 65 and over, on the other hand, who have a more mobile lifestyle, it’s important to include a walking aid that’s better adapted to the outdoor environment. Walkers or rollators with larger wheels are preferable for their sturdiness, stability on different surfaces (cobblestones, snow, dirt roads) and maneuverability. Most are also equipped with a seat. The elderly can therefore sit down and rest along the way. Various practical accessories (net, bag, etc.) are also available. They can be added to the frame. They can be used to carry items such as handbags, glasses, bottles, etc., and also make it easier to carry shopping. But they’re not indispensable. Some models are more compact and easier to handle, making them ideal for certain situations, whether you need to get to your table in a restaurant, to your seat on a plane or train, or to do your shopping.

Falls prevention and lifestyle

To prevent falls among the elderly, depending on their state of health, it may be important to offer them opportunities to improve their balance and mobility. With regular, adapted physical exercise, they can improve their functional capacity (muscular strength and cardiovascular condition) and also combat the deterioration of their bone, muscle and joint mass. They also enhance balance, flexibility, mobility and responsiveness. They’ll reduce their risk of falling, improve their general health and no longer have to worry about falling or fractures. What’s more, training with certain people will also foster their social relationships and reinforce their independence.

The good advice to remind them is that walking is a very important all-round activity. So we need to motivate them to preserve it over the long term. In fact, it can help prevent a host of problems such as falls, disorders, fractures, illnesses and so on.

Diet is also a factor in preventing falls. Elderly people need to pay particular attention to ensuring adequate protein, calcium and vitamin D intakes, to avoid bone and muscle deficiencies and weakening.

Falls prevention and health

Preventing falls also inevitably involves monitoring the general state of health of the elderly person. Obviously, the presence of illnesses or certain disorders (visual, cardiac, cognitive, motor, etc.) and the use of medication (wrong dosage, medication errors, drug interactions, side effects, etc.) can have a huge influence on the risk of falls in everyday life. It is therefore essential to carry out frequent checks on these elderly people to protect them as much as possible.

Too many people aged 65 and over believe that falls are an inevitable part of aging. It’s not! We need to make them aware of this and make them understand that many things can be done to limit and prevent falls, which are a source of hospitalization, rehabilitation, after-effects and worries.

Finally, it’s equally important for the elderly to have the right footwear to protect them from falls. Good non-slip shoes or even orthopedic shoes can make a real difference. By providing good arch support, they improve stability on the ground and can prevent slips and falls.

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