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Walk with confidence

FALLS continue to be the leading cause of injury and hospitalisation for those aged over 65. When a fall occurs it can have devastating consequences, including trauma to the body and mind, and can be the beginning of ongoing functional decline, usually because of the fear of falling again.

This fear contributes to isolation as older people often describe that they don’t want to leave the home environment as they have become fearful of a subsequent fall. A whopping one third of all older people in Australia experience a fall each year.

The good news though, is they can be prevented.

Catholic Healthcare’s Community Services has developed a Walking with Confidence falls prevention program, aimed to address considerable risk factors that contribute to falls, including:

  • Previous history of falls
  • Near misses such as a slips or trips
  • Increased frailty
  • Poor balance
  • Slow reaction time
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor eyesight
  • Decreased sensation in upper and lower limbs
  • A decline in performance of your typical daily tasks
  • Medical conditions (e.g. osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, spinal conditions, stroke, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s)
  • Medication use – especially for those who are prescribed multiple medications

Regardless of your age, it is important to maintain your functional independence. This is important for several reasons and varies between older people. Of all the potential reasons, the key motivator to maintain independence in older people is so they can live in their own homes for longer.

The Walking with Confidence program is an evidenced-based eight week program designed to prevent injury, keep you out of hospital and let you live at home for longer. This program is currently delivered in your home on a 1:1 basis under guidance from a health professional.

So what can you expect to do in the eight week program?

In Week 1, you'll learn and be assessed on three key exercises with a review of personal goals and safety considerations. you will participate in six key exercises that prevent falls, with baseline measurements also recorded.

Week 2 includes a discussion on the challenges and benefits of exercise, and practice on how to get up from a fall. It includes just one exercise, and the introduction of exercise seven; heel-to-toe walking.

In Week 3 and 4, we'll discuss ways to overcome a fear of falling, the benefits of sunshine, and perform a hazard prevention review of your home. You will also perform all seven exercises to date, and learn two more (single leg balance, and toe raises).

A discussion on Osteoporosis is the focus of Week 5, including risk factors, diagnosis, prevention and management, as well as how to exercise safely. You will perform all nine exercise to date and learn two more (toe walking and heel walking).

Week 6 sees a discussion on foot care and foot wear, and vision issues (normal, cataracts, glaucoma, age-related maculopathy and vision through bifocals). You'll perform all exercise to date and we'll introduce you to figure eight walking (walking that requires directional change – a key skill for movement when in shopping centres and busy places).

A discussion on the side effects of medications and information on how to reduce the potential for a fall will be the key component of Week 7, with the performance of all exercises to date and practice on stair walking. Lastly, Week 8 features a final performance of all exercises from the entire program, and some ongoing recommendations to help you continue to improve.

To date, older people who have participated in the program have really enjoyed the experience.

“It makes me aware that I need to get up and enjoy the day, and that’s important to me,” one participant said. "It’s nice to have visitors and see people.”