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Falls prevention key to independence

Beth Chrisp, 85, realised she needed to make a few changes to her lifestyle after she had two falls and hit her head on a concrete edge.

Her first fall happened a year ago when she was walking down a ramp in her Manutuke home.

Mrs Chrisp fell and broke her ankle, requiring five weeks in hospital to recover.

As part of Mrs Chrisp’s recovery, she had a caregiver visit a few days after being discharged from hospital to prevent her from falling again.

The caregiver, who Mrs Chrisp described as a “breath of fresh air”, quickly cleared all potential hazards and taught her why it was important to prevent falls from happening.

Mrs Chrisp and her family decided it was time for her to move into town, as she was getting older and needed to be in a home which would better suit her needs.

She admitted it was tough leaving her family home of 40 years but agreed moving into the retirement home was about ensuring her well-being.

Mrs Chrisp has been attending exercise classes to keep active and work on stretching.

She has learned that exercise is the most important component in preventing falls.

One of the exercises she was given was to practise standing and closing her eyes.

“That was a bit of a disaster” she said.

Mrs Chrisp is grateful to her caregiver for “nana-proofing” her house and to Oka, a physiotherapist, for helping her to regain her confidence.

She said that a fall could really knock your confidence, but she wanted to reinforce the importance of making use of the services available in Tairawhiti.

The most significant aspect of Mrs Chrisp’s story is that she still has her independence and is able to carry on living as she did before.

Falls prevention clinical nurse specialist Kat Ngatai said: “Sometimes falls may create some social and emotional consequences for older people, which can lead to loss of confidence, and their activity becomes restricted due to the loss of their independence.

“The consequences of untreated falls and risk factors are just as serious as those of other untreated chronic diseases.”

Doing exercises that strengthen your legs, core muscles and improve balance will reduce the risk of a fall.

Exercise can also: keep your bones strong; give you more energy; help you sleep better; and help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels and weight.

You can also prevent falls by: using non-skid rugs; using coil or tape extension cords or wires; attaching non-slip rubber tread to steps; ensuring lamps are easy to reach; plugging in night lights; keeping often-used items in easy-to-reach places; and never using a chair as a step stool.

To find out more about accessing falls prevention services, please contact Kat Ngatai on 06 868 9933.

FIGHTING FIT: Hauora Tairawhiti falls champion Beth Chrisp says a fall can knock your confidence, so people should make use of local falls prevention services. Picture supplied