Fall prevention

Falls Prevention – Some Practical Steps

This week on the blog, we’re looking into falls prevention. But first of all, here are some scary statistics:

  • One third of people over the age of 65 fall every year
  • Falls are leading cause of injury in older adults
  • Over 400,000 older people attend Accident and Emergency Departments annually as a result of falls

So why do we need to look at falls prevention?

Clearly with the emphasis in the health service of reducing unplanned admissions, falls represent a huge area for improvement, and one that would have a massive impact on a stretched NHS. But the consequences of falls on an older people can be devastating:

  • Serious injury
  • Inability to look after oneself
  • More reliance on carers
  • Long term disability
  • Loss of independence
  • Needing to move to residential care
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Fear of another fall
  • People restrict their lifestyle and reduce their independence
  • Loss of confidence

There are any number of falls risks:

  • Diabetes
  • Muscle Strength
  • Balance/poor or slow reactions
  • Bone health & Osteoporosis
  • Foot health and footwear
  • Hearing loss
  • Mobility
  • Dementia & Challenging Behaviour
  • Incontinence & bathroom access
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Compliance
  • Medication and medical errors
  • Combined sight and hearing loss
  • Home environment
  • Impaired Vision
  • Blood pressure variation
  • Bedside environment
  • Nutrition & Fluids
  • Medicine checks NB steroids and anti-epilepsy drugs

All of these can cause falls, but many older people will have more than one of these risks which makes a fall even more likely. The clear message is that older people don’t “just fall”, and if there are multiple sources of risk then there needs to be multiple sources of support. The Challenge is matching client need to proper support!

One answer is in a service that the Enfield Clinical Commissioning Group has commissioned Age UK London to deliver – a wide ranging falls prevention training programme covering all aspects of falls and frailty risk.

This is delivered to private care staff, care home staff, social workers, voluntary sector, any other interested party, so that there are a large number of “Falls Champions” from all across the social care sector.

Each champion has clear information so they know what support is available meet the needs of the client and we make sure that they have the tools and resources they need.
The more people available to spot the many risks, and the ability to make sure they are addressed will mean that falls are reduced, and we look forward to showing this properly when the programme is evaluated.

But what of the future…

Age UK London is also working with the University of Ioninna, the University of Hamburg and other partners on “Holobalance”, a digital tool that can help diagnose weaknesses or issues in a person’s posture, and then using augmented reality (AR) to plan an exercise system that addresses postural problems and also helps keep the older person motivated to continue the exercises.

For example, in this picture the person has to pick up virtual leaves and acorns from the floor, or pluck apples from the tree. With home VR and AR technology advancing quickly, it may not be long before we see these sorts of devices helping older people remain more stable on their feet and less liable to fall.

And whatever method we use to reduce frailty and falls, the end result can only be better and healthier ageing.

For more information on accessing Age UK London’s expertise, please contact me on pgoulden@ageuklondon.org.uk

(This blog is based on a talk given on the 18th May 2018 to the South London Health Innovation Network conference “Vision Screening to Improve Balance and Prevent Falls”)

Paul Goulden

Paul has been our Chief Executive since November 2016. After studying politics and international relations at university, Paul trained to be a chartered accountant for a year... before swiftly realizing he wasn’t an accountant! Following a brief stint running a buffet on a steam railway, Paul then worked in political campaigning and fundraising for ten years before joining Age Concern Bromley (as it was then) as Business Manager. Whilst there he completed a Masters degree in Voluntary Sector Management at Cass Business School and in 2009 Paul took on the job of Chief Executive of Age UK Bexley.

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