Today's top tips - techniques for managing falls, trips and stumbles.
Falls affect me on a daily basis. The difficulty is probably brought on, or worsened, by the differences I have like Dyspraxia and Joint Hyper-Mobility Syndrome. My problems with gross and fine motor control affect me every single day, I fall, stumble, trip, walk into walls, drop things, break things and hurt myself on a very regular basis.
A Note On General Fitness
It seems like the fitter I was, the stronger my muscles were and the more capable they were of holding me up, supporting me and helping to prevent injuries like torn ligaments and muscle sprains. The kind of injuries which I suffer from now by doing the smallest of movements.
So my main advice is, if you have conditions like DCD/Dyspraxia, Joint HyperMobility Syndrome and/or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and you want to minimise the injuries you suffer when you fall or trip then you need to have strong supportive muscles. If you are already fit, then it's simple, seek advice from your GP about the right activity level for you and stay active.
Regardless of your age or current ability if you're not fit and your muscles are not strong enough to support you my advice is that you see a GP or Physiotherapist who understands your condition and can start you off on a gentle but effective exercise plan that will eventually get you fit!
It is worth noting though, that even when I was fit, even when I exercised regularly and had good muscle strength, I still fell over, tripped, stumbled, broke things and hurt myself every single day I think I just hurt myself a lot less as a result of having stronger muscles and I seemed to recover from injuries a lot faster than I do today.
the reasons why I fall
With my difficulties I eventually realised that it was time to admit that things needed to change. I can't change myself, wouldn't want to even if I had the option but I needed to start minimising my injuries. Three children to look after means no time for broken bones, torn ligaments and pulled muscles. The following are some of the techniques that I use in my day-to-day life to help me minimise those falls. I hope some of the techniques are of use to you too.
Taking precautions at home
The following tips may seem pretty obvious but it's amazing how many times not following these simple tips and techniques has landed me in trouble in the past. So for those of you out there like me - I hope they help.
* Create lists for how each room needs to be cleaned so you minimise how many times you have to leave the room or manage the stairs. This is a blog subject that I am working on in its own right so keep a look out for it. ;-)
* Keep all passages & walk spaces free of clutter
* Don't go on tip toes to reach things. When you change your centre of gravity onto a much less stable base it's way easier to fall over, or in my case, not fall but manage to pull shelves off walls, pots and pans onto my head and fall onto the hop while it was still on. All of which happened when I thought 'ah but if I just stretch a little I'll be able to reach it'.
* If like me you are a little on the vertically challenged side (I'm only 5'2"), try using a stepping stool to help you reach all those slightly out of reach places.
* Keep you keys, purse and cards in the same location all the time so you know where they are when you need them and never put them anywhere else no matter how safe it seems at the time. Chances are, if you are like me, you will forget where you put them! I put my purse in the fridge once, probably just so that I could pick something up with two hands but the results were that I was left with no cash and no cards for two whole days because lets face it, no one thinks to check the fridge for their purse!
* If possible, don't bend over to pick things up I use one of those hand grabber instead of bending down as a result I've been losing my balance less.
* If you tire easily having to balance while standing in the kitchen then use a perching stool so that you have something safe to lean against while having to prep food, do dishes or iron clothes.
* Prepare all the utensils and cookware you will need prior to stating cooking so you know you have everything close to hand and you don't have to be walking around the kitchen while the hob is on.
* When putting pans on the hob always turn the handles inwards or to the side, do not leave them poking out because getting them hooked on your clothes is no fun!
* Keep frequent use items in easy to reach cupboards that do not require you to bend down or get on a stepping stool to reach.
* Ensure your frequent use stairs at home are lit if light is dim. If necessary use light ropes or similar product to light the staircase itself.
Planning your bath/shower room
All of the following have helped me reduce the falls and stumbles I have in the bathroom/shower.
* Install grab rails for the bath and shower to give you stable support for getting in and out and especially for those times you are in the shower, you close your eyes to wash your hair and the next thing you know you're falling into the wall or out of the shower completely! Having a grab rail to hold onto and regain your sense of where you are in the shower really does help.
* Use a long handled sponge, scrubbing brush or loofa as this will help you reach those hard to reach areas.
* Place non-slip bath and shower mats & floor rugs wherever your likely to put your wet and slippery feet so you don't slip.
* Keep the bath/shower room organised at all times so that you never have to step over or around anything!
WARNING - No matter how much you love to listen to your IPod, radio, or talk on the phone while you are in the bathroom remember at all times that water and gadgets in the same room are not always conducive to good health, for you OR the gadget. Having accidentally dropped my phone into the toilet before, I can honestly say the phone did not do so well after that and even if it had I'd have still had to buy a new one. I tell you, I never wanted to put that phone to the side of my face again!
Do you find stairs challenging?
* If you are scared of doing the stairs then always check to see if there is a lift (elevator) available. Why struggle with the stairs if you can just wait your turn for the lift and get to the top or bottom safely?
If there is no lift available then think about the following:
* Check whether there are any obstacles on the stairs so you can plan how to avoid them with plenty of time.
* Always use the handrail if available, if not use the wall as a leaning support.
* Keep your spare hand free if possible. In other words don't carry things in your hands while doing stairs if you can help it.
* Check where (or feel for where) your feet are going to be placed before placing them.
* Try to stay focused on the task until you have finished it and got safely to the top or bottom.
* Counting steps should help you to focus on the task at hand without over thinking it and making it seem harder than it is.
* Leave being sociable, talking to people or talking on the phone, turning to look at people, and if your like me, chewing gum, until you finish the task.
(I can't do two things at once and I really don't need to fall downstairs ever again to learn that distractions on stairs are a real hazard!)
* Remember to breathe while your on the stairs, not breathing may help you concentrate but dizziness and nausea never helped anyone handle stairs safely!
if Walking on even surfaces is Difficult?
Sometimes I feel like I'm continuously falling forwards rather than walking. If you are dyspraxic like me then you know that this will happen because it's the way you are wired and you know it will happen more if you are stressed and/or rushing. The following tips should help to minimise the damage you do to yourself when you invariably do fall and hopefully help you minimise how many times you fall.
* wear flat boots with good ankle support.
WARNING - When wearing good supportive boots double knot the laces so they don't slip out and trip you later while you're walking!
* Concentrate fully on where you are walking... Scan your eyes from where your feet are on the ground to your next break in the journey, like a curb you need to step off to cross a road, then check for any obstacles on the way. Look at and stay focused on reaching that next obstacle or break. This is a similar technique to that used for walking on a tightrope and if it helps some people walk way above the ground on a thin piece of rope I think it can certainly help us walk in a straight(ish) line too.
* Remember to use your arms while walking. Let them swing naturally by your side, this can also help you balance better.
* Try not to walk with your hands in your pockets. If you fall you will need them to help break the fall. Trust me, it's better than using your face to break the fall!
* Use apps on your phone like google maps, findmycar, diary and notes so that you can focus on walking safely as opposed to having to focus on finding your way around. Check out my previous blog on 'Problems With Working Memory' as there are some useful suggestions there on how to keep your mind clutter free and able to focus on getting from A to B safely when you're out and about.
if out and about in the countryside
* When walking down uneven slopes turn yourself and your feet 90 degrees to the side as this helps with balance and grip!
* If there is a short but steep slope with a relatively even surface at the bottom go down it at speed. Sometimes it's easier to balance when you go fast.
WARNING - Always check it's safe to get to the bottom at speed so that you don't for example, run out into a road or straight into a river!
If there are routes, or journeys which you have to make regularly then take your time the first few times you travel them. Use any gadgets that you find useful for taking pictures, running a sat nav, making notes, finding your car or bus stop, etc. Now do the route a few times just to identify markers and dangers that you will need to watch out for. Make a list of them so that you can plan your route from your home to your destination keeping all the hazards and dangers acknowledged and taken account of.
Get out an about as much as possible, exercise lots to ensure you are fit and your muscles are strong and always remember...
... It is not how we fall that defines us but how we get ourselves back up!