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Staying Steady: How Does Home Physiotherapy Prevent Falls?

I believe everyone over the age of 60 should engage in fall prevention programs. The ideal time to begin is when you feel healthy or have a fall scare or close call. But, it’s never too late to start.

In this blog, I talk about the different ways a physiotherapist can help you with fall prevention.

If you’ve recently suffered a fall and have been hospitalised because of that, read our other article that talks about how physiotherapy at home helps recovery post-hospital discharge.

Home Physiotherapy Falls Prevention Techniques

Here are 8 ways physiotherapy at home can prevent falls:

1.   Tailored Strategies for Your Space

When our physiotherapists visit your home, we quickly assess the layout and features of your space. We then offer bespoke strategies that are not just theoretically effective but practically feasible within your home.

Thanks to our experience, we have a much better understanding of how various elements of your environment can influence your risk of falls. We can spot potential hazards that you might overlook, such as loose rugs, inadequate lighting, or cluttered walkways, and provide targeted advice on mitigating these risks.

On top of that, our home-based physiotherapists can observe how you interact with your environment during your daily activities. This insight allows us to recommend specific modifications to your routines. Or suggest changes in furniture placement to enhance safety and accessibility.

For example, we might recommend rearranging your living room to create a more open and obstacle-free space or suggest installing grab bars in your bathroom.

In addition to environmental adjustments, our home physiotherapists can design exercise programs that are doable and effective within your home’s constraints.

We know how tiny London homes can be. So whether you have a spacious living room or a small apartment, we can tailor a set of exercises that use available space and furniture.

Our goal is to make sure that your routine is both practical and beneficial. And that you feel empowered to move freely in your familiar surroundings.

We call this our “context-sensitive approach” to fall prevention at home. Our patients recover much faster because of our personalised treatments.

2.   Balance and Strength Training at Home

We all know that our bodies depend on muscle strength to do everything.

Did you know that your body has a specific group of muscles, called the postural muscles, that are responsible for one main thing – posture?

Similarly, some muscle groups play a bigger role in balance and stability than others. These are the core muscles located in your abdomen, lower back, hips and pelvis. The core maintains your body’s centre of gravity and is involved in almost every movement. These muscles act as the link connecting your upper and lower body. Their stability is essential for almost all movements, including standing, sitting, bending, and walking.

You can prevent falls at home by strengthening those core muscles. It won’t only add stability to your spine and pelvis, but also improve posture and coordination.

We’ve talked about some of the best exercises for post-fall rehab at home in our other blog, but you can use those to prevent falls as well. Give that post a read to understand why and how to do the exercises. Here are three more activities to improve balance and core stability:

  1. Bridges: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, engaging your glutes and core. This movement strengthens the lower back and core.
  2. Planks: Planks are great to engage the entire core. Maintaining a push-up position with your body straight from head to heels can significantly enhance core resilience.
  3. Toe Taps: While lying on your back with legs lifted and knees bent at a 90-degree angle, slowly lower one foot to tap the floor, then raise it back up. This targets the lower abdominal muscles, critical for balance.

Adding these exercises into your daily routine at home, under the guidance of a physiotherapist, can boost your core strength and balance and prevent falls.

3.   Personalised Mobility Plans

You may be wondering why we focus so much on personalisation.

Because there’s a lot of high-quality research showing that personalised plans that address specific limitations and strengths are far better than one-size-fits-all ones.

We’ve seen our patients recover much faster compared to other physiotherapy providers time and time again because of our personalised approach.

Personalised mobility plans are a crucial component of home physiotherapy for fall prevention. These plans are tailored to an individual’s specific physical capabilities, limitations, and the layout of their living environment. That ensures our strategies are both effective and sustainable to enhance your safety and independence at home.

Consider an individual who’s at risk for falls because they are recovering from hip replacement surgery. Their mobility plan would be different from that of someone who is at risk of falls due to balance issues and occasional dizziness.

Range of motion and hip strengthening exercises will help the hip replacement patient learn to control their core and improve balance. But the same exercises won’t do much for our second individual.

Do you see why personalisation is important?

The same program doesn’t usually benefit two different individuals the same way even if they have the same issue.

4.   Ergonomic Advice For Home Activities

The simplest (and unofficial) definition of ergonomics is “making adjustments to your environment to make it efficient and safe”. 

In the context of physical therapy, ergonomics are simple adjustments in how you perform daily activities that can significantly reduce strain and risk of injury (falls). Ergonomic advice can enhance your safety and comfort during your daily activities.

During this process, our home physiotherapists in London focus on designing and arranging your living spaces and activities to fit your body and lifestyle. For example: 

  1. Kitchen ergonomics: We recommend adjusting the height of kitchen counters or using an adjustable chair or stool if you spend a lot of time cooking or washing dishes. This advice can prevent overreaching or prolonged standing, which could contribute to fatigue and instability.
  2. Bathroom safety: We can suggest the installation of a raised toilet seat or shower chair to reduce your risk of falls in the bathroom. These adjustments can help maintain balance and prevent slips in wet conditions.
  3. Organized living spaces: We encourage keeping living spaces clutter-free and ensuring that cords or rugs do not create tripping hazards. For example, we may suggest securing rugs with non-slip pads and using cord management solutions to keep cables out of walkways.

These ergonomic principles can foster a safer and more independent living environment. Home physiotherapists can help you figure out what to change to prevent falls.

5.   Equipment and Aids: Indoors and Outdoors

Equipment and aids that are designed to support mobility, stability, and independence can transform your environment into a secure area that can reduce your risk of accidents. For example,

  1. Non-slip mats in areas prone to wetness, like bathrooms and kitchens, can prevent slips. These mats are widely available in London stores and online.
  2. Outdoor railings along outdoor steps provide necessary support and stability to prevent falls. The cost varies with material and length.
  3. Ramps: Replacing steps with ramps provides easier access for those with mobility issues or using mobility aids, reducing fall risk. Portable ramps are cheaper than permanent installations.

When considering the purchase and installation of such equipment, you may benefit from consulting with a physiotherapist. We can offer personalized recommendations based on your specific needs and the layout of your home to ensure you invest in the most effective and beneficial aids for fall prevention.

6.   Monitoring Progress

When you engage in a physiotherapy fall prevention program at home, your risk of falls changes.

Regular assessments with a physiotherapist enable timely adjustments to your plan. That allows your plan to evolve with your recovery so it can continue to meet your needs effectively.The process involves regularly assessing your physical abilities and, indirectly, checking the effectiveness of the intervention strategies.

Our goal is to make sure you’re making meaningful improvements and not doing exercise simply for the sake of doing something.

We use various tests for this process, as they give us quantifiable data that we can use to fine-tune your physiotherapy plan. For example:

  1. Berg balance scale is a comprehensive test to assess balance through various tasks, including standing, reaching, turning, and transferring. Each task is scored, and the total score helps in determining the person’s balance proficiency.
  2. Gait speed: The speed at which you can walk a specified distance is a good indicator of your functional mobility. Increased gait speed over time can suggest improvements in balance, strength, and confidence in walking.
  3. Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT) is particularly useful for assessing the dynamic balance and the functional reach an individual can achieve while maintaining a single-leg stance. Improvements in reach distance can indicate better balance and lower extremity strength.

In my experience, this type of objective monitoring also motivates patients, as they can see real evidence of their improvements over time.

7.   Family Involvement

Since family is usually around you the most, we find that including them in your rehab provides additional support, both emotional and physical. That can enhance the effectiveness of fall prevention strategies.

But the key is to balance assistance and support with your independence to avoid over-dependence. Here are some ways your family can add to your fall prevention program:

  1. Environmental adjustments: Your family can rearrange furniture to create clear walking paths, secure rugs, or install grab bars in bathrooms to make your home more secure for you.
  2. Emotional support: Recovery and adjustment to a new lifestyle can be challenging. Family support can be crucial in maintaining a positive outlook and encouraging persistence.
  3. Monitoring and feedback: Family members can provide valuable observations to your physiotherapist regarding your progress and any difficulties you encounter, leading to timely adjustments in the treatment plan.

We make sure that your family’s involvement in home physiotherapy for fall prevention is well-balanced and informed. While support is invaluable, it must promote your confidence to ensure you remain as active and self-reliant as possible.

8.   Incorporating Technology

Technology can play a key role in increasing home safety and supporting physiotherapy goals.

You can integrate various devices and applications into your daily routine to monitor health metrics, provide reminders, and even guide exercises. For example:

  1. Home monitoring systems can include motion sensors and cameras to monitor your movements around the house. They can alert family members or caregivers in case of irregular activity or a fall.
  2. Mobile apps: Various apps can help with exercise routines, medication reminders, and tracking progress in physiotherapy. Some apps are free, while premium versions with more features might cost you a few pounds a month.
  3. Virtual Reality (VR) systems can be good for balance and gait training in a controlled and engaging environment.

Your specific needs, home environment, and goals should guide the choice of technology for fall prevention at home.

Your Next Steps

Developing and maintaining sustainable habits is key to lifelong fall prevention.

Home physiotherapy services in London give you the convenience of having expert physios come to your doorstep, ready to guide you through your recovery journey.

If you want to start your personalised fall prevention program at home in London, get in touch with our home physios in Eltham, Battersea, Norbury, or Woolwich.