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3 February 2006
A FALL CAN SERIOUSLY
DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH
PCT project aims to reduce falls by older people
The chance of falling increases as we age and fear of falling is a serious issue for older people. It can knock confidence and lead to isolation and loss of independence. Many older people feel that falls are an inevitable consequence of aging but there are often things that can be done to prevent them.
Jane Cobby, Project Lead (Falls) for Western Sussex Primary Care Trust (PCT), said ‘It is never too late for people to start reducing their risk of falling. Falls prevention in older people is a top priority for Western Sussex PCT and we are launching an exciting new initiative aimed at reducing falls, and the consequences of those falls, which can be truly devastating for people. One of the most common and distressing injuries that can result from a fall is a fracture of the hip and we know that after a hip fracture 50% of older people can no longer live independently.’
The PCT, working with colleagues from St Richard’s Hospital, Sussex Ambulance Trust, local authorities and the voluntary and independent sectors, has introduced a new role of ‘Generic Technician in Falls Prevention’ within the Bognor and Chichester Community Rehabilitation Teams.
Generic Technicians will support patients who have been identified, particularly by the Community Alarm Services and the Ambulance Service, as ‘frequent fallers’ and are considered at greatest risk of falling again. They contact and visit patients in their own homes to undertake an in-depth Falls Risk Assessment. This assessment includes home safety checks and advising patients on a range of exercises aimed at improving strength and balance, as well as organising equipment to assist in mobility and daily tasks. By improving their strength and balance and by taking other simple precautions, many older people could avoid the anxiety and distress caused by falls and maintain their confidence and independence as they age.
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Generic Technicians will also be providing an educational programme for care home staff, aimed at raising awareness of falls prevention techniques. One of the first care homes to benefit from this training is ‘The Conifers’ in Selsey. James Leahy, one of the PCT’s new Generic Technicians, said ‘Preventing falls in care homes is often about raising awareness of simple practical measures that can be taken to reduce the risks, such as having a plug-in night light so that older people getting up in the night can see where they are going.’
Another practical measure to reduce the adverse effects of a fall is to encourage the wearing of ‘hip protectors’ - close fitting, padded shorts or underwear designed to protect the hip bones by absorbing the force of the fall. Martin Pelling, who manages ‘The Conifers’ home for older people suffering from dementia comments ‘Our aim at ‘The Conifers’ is of course to reduce the number of falls. However, we want residents to be able to move about freely and this inevitably means that they are at risk of falling, day or night. We’ve recently undertaken a falls risk assessment for the majority of our residents, and in most cases relatives have been more than willing to purchase hip protectors for their loved ones. Whilst there is no guarantee that hips or other limbs won’t be damaged in a fall, we want to do all we can to avoid the worst case scenario in these situations.’
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For further information, please contact:
Linda Benny, Communications Manager
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EDITORS NOTES FOLLOW
Falls Prevention in older people is a top priority for Western Sussex PCT and we are working closely with partners in the local health economy to implement the Western Sussex Falls Prevention Strategy. This work is aimed at reducing unscheduled care in the long term by reducing admissions into A&E and hospital as a result of a fall.
Fractured neck of femur is a common cause of morbidity, use of hospital care and death in elderly people. About a third of people never regain mobility and a third die within six months. The cost to the local health economy for the care of each older person following a fractured neck of femur (including subsequent long stay residential care) can be in the region of £25,000.
· One third of people aged over 65 will fall at least once in the year
· Following a hip fracture, 50% of older people can no longer live independently and 25% die
· 42% of fallers have at least 80% reduction in activity after a fall
· 40% of care home admissions are as a result of a fall
Generic Technicians work as assistants to qualified/senior occupational therapists and help people to improve their daily lives by improving their ability to complete tasks at home. Their goal is to assist patients to achieve their maximum level of independence. This may include some elements of physiotherapy as well as identifying where the patient may benefit from adaptive equipment.
An important aspect of the Falls Prevention Strategy is to make an awareness raising training programme available to care home staff to enhance and extend the knowledge they may already have around this issue.
Falls in care homes are costly:
· Older people living in care homes are three times more likely to fall than older people living in the community
· 25% of older people who fall in care homes suffer serious injuries and many die within three months of the fall.
Source: Community Practitioner, volume 78 number 4 April 2005