Falls are most common and most lethal among the over-65s.

More than 3,500 people in England and Wales die every year following a fall and nearly a third of a million people need hospital treatment. Many older people who suffer from falls never fully recover from either the physical or psychological impact of their injuries. Sadly, falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75.

Falls are a major cause of older people needing to be admitted to hospital and it can have a major impact on their confidence and future mobility. Older people frequently fracture their hips as part of the fall and may result in them losing their independence and needing to be cared for.

Older people are at a fare greater risk of falling.

  • This is often due to them failing to identify risks and being fiercely independent.
  • If they begin to get muddled and confused that also puts them at a greater risk.
  • Home hazards are frequently a cause of accidents: loose stair carpets and rugs and poorly fitting footwear and slippers that no longer have sufficient grip.
  • Often their eyesight is beginning to fail and they particularly struggle in low light, possibly failing to see the top step of the stairs or tripping over things that they had placed in a dangerous position.
  • If they have an urgency to go to the toilet, this can result in them rushing, or if it is too late, in them slipping on a wet floor.
  • Medication to reduce high blood pressure can result in them feeling dizzy if they get up too quickly and causing them to wobble or possibly collapse. Anyone on blood pressure reducing tablets should be encouraged to get up very slowly whilst holding onto something.

Carers should consider all these risks and work with the person they are caring for and with any external organisations to assess the likelihood of falling and minimise the risks.

Advice for an elderly person who has fallen:

Stay as calm as you can. Don’t rush to get up, just take time to establish if you are hurt. Lie still and work systematically up your body to check for pain or bleeding when moving your limbs. If you feel able to get yourself up, do this slowly. Roll onto your hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed. Hold on to the furniture with both hands and use the furniture to assist you in getting up. Take time to rest and contact someone to tell them what has happened.

If you’re hurt or unable to get up, try to get someone’s attention by calling for help (use your mobile phone if you have one to hand), bang on the wall or floor to alert neighbours, or press your emergency aid call button (if you have one).  Alternatively, try and crawl to your telephone and call someone local or dial 999 to call an ambulance.

Do not exhaust yourself trying to get help. Remain calm and if possible cover yourself with something warm, such as a rug or coat. Wrap yourself up as well as you can and get as comfortable as possible. It is important to shift your body weight frequently to prevent yourself getting pressure sores.

Prevention:

Falls are often caused by the same things and there are simple measures that can help reduce risks:

·         using non-slip mats in the bathroom

·         mopping up spills to prevent wet, slippery floors

·         getting help lifting or moving items that are heavy or difficult to lift

·         removing clutter and ensuring all areas of the home are well lit can also help to prevent falls.

How your GP can help:

If you’re worried you might be susceptible to falls, visit your GP, who may carry out some simple tests to check your balance and can also review any medicines you’re taking, in case their side effects may increase your risk of falling.

Your GP may also recommend:

·         having a sight test if you’re having problems with your vision, even if you already wear glasses

·         having an electrocardiogram (ECG) and checking your blood pressure while lying and standing

·         requesting a home hazard assessment, where a healthcare professional visits your home to identify potential hazards and offer advice

·         doing exercises to improve your strength and balance

Written by Emma Hammett RGN

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