A diverse range of health professionals are involved in the prevention of falls and each health professional contributes in a different way. It is important to know who else can assist you to prevent falls. Provided below is a description of health professional disciplines that you may be interested in referring to, or contacting, regarding the prevention of falls in older adults living in the community. For more information, The Department of Health WA also provides information on what your profession can do to prevent falls.
Falls specialists and clinics
Falls specialists are either physiotherapists or occupational therapists, who assist older adults living in the community to identify and reduce their risk of falls. A falls specialist can visit the client in their own home to conduct a detailed assessment. This assessment can determine why the client has fallen previously and/or identify risk factors that may contribute to future falls. Falls specialists accept referrals from GPs and health providers in the public or private health system across all clinical areas and settings.
Exercise physiologists specialise in the delivery of exercise for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries such as those resulting from a fall. For more information about exercise programs please click here. You may find the following links useful for more information;
Physiotherapists work with their clients to overcome musculoskeletal or movement issues and disorders. A physiotherapist works with their client to prescribe exercises to improve their balance, flexibility and strength, all of which can reduce their risk of having a fall. The Australian Physiotherapy Association maintains a current database of physiotherapists. The Australian Physiotherapy Association and the Community Physiotherapy Services also provide information and contact details specifically relating to the role that physiotherapists have within the community
General Practitioners (GPs) play a key role in the prevention of falls. They are able to assess and assist their patients to manage their health including information and advice about their medicines, diet, exercise and management of chronic health conditions. GPs are often the first point of contact that many patients have with a health professional in relation to the prevention of falls. GPs are in an excellent position to refer patients to other health professionals who can provide more specific falls prevention information and services. If you are not sure of the services that are available in your local area, the National Health Services Directory can assist you in finding a range of healthcare services.
Pharmacists play an important role in the prevention of falls, particularly amongst older adults who regularly visit the pharmacy. Pharmacists can observe older adults for declines in physical or behavioural traits including gait or personality. They can also perform reviews and checks of older adult’s medicines to ensure they are not causing adverse effects that increase falls risk. Information regarding the pharmacutical industry is available from the National Prescribing Service, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.
Occupational therapists enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. An occupational therapist can assess their client’s home environment for potential hazards, help make modifications to make the home safer and develop an exercise program. Occupational Therapy Australia is the national professional association representing occupational therapy in Australia and can help you find a private practice OT and also provides information regarding falls prevention.
Dietitians assist their clients to understand the relationship between their food intake and their overall health and well being. A poor diet can cause dizziness, weakness, light headedness and reduced concentration, all of which can lead to a fall. Dietitians can advise older adults on healthy food choices and provide simple and budget friendly meal ideas. Dieticians recommend foods to ensure older adults meat their daily energy requirements and consume the vitamins and minerals essential to good health in later life. If you have any queries relating to the work completed by dietitians or would like to contact a dietician in your area, visit the Dietician Association of Australia website.
Optometrists and Ophthalmologists
As individuals age, physical changes in their eyes often occur that affect both their eyesight and balance. Optometrists are eye specialists who can assess vision, the presence of eye diseases and prescribe lenses and contact lenses. To locate your nearest optometrist, the Optometrists Association of Australia maintains a database of optometrists. Further information regarding the role of optometrists in the prevention of falls can be found at Optometry Australia and the Lions Eye Institute. Ophthalmologists are medical eye specialists trained to examine, diagnose, treat and manage eye diseases and disorders and can also perform eye surgeries.
Podiatrists work with individuals to prevent, diagnose and treat medical conditions associated with the feet and lower limbs. A podiatrist can also make suggestions of how their client can improve their circulation, decrease any swelling in their feet and provide advice on suitable footwear, as all of these factors could be affecting their clients balance. If you are interested in information regarding lower limbs and falls prevention, the Australasian Podiatry Council provides research, as well as a database to help you find your local podiatrist.
Aboriginal health workers
Aboriginal health workers play an important role in improving access to, and the delivery of, holistic health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They provide a vital link between Aboriginal communities and health care services by assisting to arrange, coordinate and provide various health care services including falls prevention. If you are seeking information about health services available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island individuals, the following websites are a great resources;
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
- Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia
- WA Department of Health – Aboriginal Health
Nurses and Practice nurses
Nurses play an important role in the prevention of falls. They are in a position to facilitate a team-based approach to falls prevention as they often work closely with other health professionals including GPs and allied health professionals. Nurses can often also recognise changes that occur in their patients that could indicate they are at an increased risk of falls. The Practice Nurses Association provide useful educational opportunities for practice nurses on many topics.
Aged and Community Care Services
Community organisations and aged care services have a vital role in the prevention of falls. These organisations and services assist with a range of activities, including the overall maintenance of health and wellbeing of older adults.
Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) (Healthy WA) can receive referrals from health professionals, individuals, or friends and family members of older adults. The team assesses the individual’s needs and ability to perform activities of daily living including accessing the community. They will then determine which services the individual may be eligible to receive, primarily assistance with daily tasks and their own care.
The aim of the Home and Community Care (HACC) program is to assist people to remain living at home relatively independently by providing a range of basic support and maintenance services. Services can include assistance with household tasks, maintaining a nutritious diet, functioning safely and participating in social activities. With approximately 50% of falls occurring in and around the home, ensuring that individuals are practising safe behaviours within their own home is very important. The My Aged Care website is also a useful source of information or call 1800 200 422.
There are also a number of community services that assist with people’s health and wellbeing;
- Carers WA
- Independent Living Centre WA
- Silver Chain
- Red Cross
- Umbrella Multicultural Community Care Services
Health promotion officers plan and coordinate health promotion programs for various groups within the community including groups of older adults. If you are interested in contacting your local health promotion officer or require information about the services they provide, the following websites provide information that may be able to assist you:
- Australian Health Promotion Association
- Australian National Preventive Health Agency
- Public Health Advocacy Institute of Western Australia
- WA Country Health Service
Education and Research Institutes
There are various education and research institutes that teach or conduction research into falls prevention. If you are interested in furthering your studies in falls prevention or getting in contact with students and academics with a falls prevention focus, the following links may be useful;
- The University of Notre Dame Fremantle – Falls prevention research network
- Curtin University
- Monash University
- The George Institute for Global Health Australia
- National Ageing Research Institute
- Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research
- The University of Queensland Australia
- Neuroscience Research Australia – Injury Prevention Research Centre