In light of Buckingham Palace’s statement regarding the Queen’s mobility issues, and Her Majesty’s attendance at the Jubilee celebrations.
A home safety expert has undertaken an online risk assessment via a Royal UK Online Tour of Buckingham Palace to highlight the importance of being prepared for potential falls among older people.
Data shows that around 50% of people aged 80 and over will experience a fall this year, and older adults who are classified as frail are more than three times more likely to experience a fall. Unaddressed fall hazards in the home increase the burden on health and social care and cost NHS England £435m every year.
People with episodic mobility problems, like Her Majesty, can often have difficulty getting around. This can be down to muscle weakness and joint problems, meaning older people can be unsteady on their feet. This can make getting in and out of bed or a chair difficult and can often result in falls.
The Palace has adaptations in place for visitors to make it fully accessible, including permanent handrails on both sides of the Grand and Ministers’ Staircases, two lifts and step-free access points.
Buckingham Palace is an impressive, historic building dating back to the 1700s, meaning that some of the floors are naturally uneven, and residents and visitors should be aware of potential fall risks.
Following a virtual safety audit of Buckingham Palace conducted via Royal UK, falls prevention expert Louise Yasities shares some simple tips and how to avoid falls in the homes of older people:
Rugs can be major tripping hazards – ensure non-slip products are in place
30-50% of falls are caused by environmental issues such as poor lighting and slippery floors. While Buckingham Palace is well-lit thanks to numerous chandeliers dating back centuries and many floors throughout the palace are carpeted, some have polished wooden floors. The Throne Room and the White Drawing Room are covered in large rugs, which could be a fall risk.
Older people with mobility issues may want to consider purchasing non-slip mats which are a cost-effective way of avoiding falls and can be discretely placed underneath carpets and rugs, meaning they won’t detract from the design of your home.
Check stairways are accessible
The Grand Staircase and impressive bronze balustrade are both iconic features of the Palace dating back to 1873. As shown in this article, the Palace has made modifications to help make the Grand Staircase more accessible with permanent handrails on both sides, making it safer when ascending and descending its 47 steps.
Adding handrails offers an additional layer of security for people who may be unsteady on their feet and can be easily added to homes without detracting from the interior aesthetic.
The Palace also has at least two lifts, making it easier for both residents and visitors to access the upper floors safely.
Low steps and platforms can also pose a tripping hazard if they aren’t visible and grab rails should be installed in any areas that could cause a fall.
Buckingham Palace is a historic building, meaning the floors may naturally be uneven.
Brits are a nation of pet lovers and pets are a great addition to families and can provide much-needed companionship for older adults, helping to keep them active. To avoid pets increasing an older person’s risk of a fall, simple adjustments can be made to stop them from getting under their owners’ feet.
Her Majesty has long been a proud owner of Corgis, but they could pose a hidden fall risk. The Queen’s Corgis are often photographed without collars, however a simple collar with a bell on it will help to ensure that everyone is aware of where they are at all times, so they won’t startle anyone and cause trips or falls.
Pet owners should ensure food and water bowls are fixed to avoid these from being moved by the dogs and any toys left in walkways should be put away. Any spillages or mess created by the dogs should be cleaned up quickly, to avoid the risk of slips and falls.
Consider mobility aids for out-of-home activities
It’s reassuring to see that Her Majesty has recently begun using mobility aids, including Prince Philip’s walking stick and being driven in an electric buggy at the Chelsea Flower Show. These are instrumental in helping older people get around more comfortably and avoid potential falls. A personal alarm device or monitor is advisable for older people with mobility concerns to ensure help can be called as soon as possible in the unfortunate event of a fall.
For more information about preventing falls at home, visit TakingCare’s fall prevention guide and to understand how at-risk you or your elderly relative may be of having a fall, take their free online falls risk assessment.