Falls Awareness Week in June 2014 sees Age UK leading the annual campaign to promote the services and interventions that can help reduce the risk of a fall, and encourage older people to get active in later life. The campaign also offers an opportunity for older people, relatives and carers to find out more about falls and take part in the local classes and services that can help to prevent them.
Falls and fractures in people aged 65 and over account for over 4 million hospital bed days each year in England alone. Age UK reports that falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence, with around one in 10 older people who fall becoming afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.
This year Age UK has published a range of material on its website aimed at preventing falls, including its “Staying Steady Guide” which promotes simple steps that older people and their carers can take to help them stay on their feet. These include regular eye checks, looking after one’s feet, managing medication that can cause dizziness, and exercising appropriately. For instance, a tailored exercise programme is proven to reduce falls by as much as 54%.
Commenting on Falls Awareness Week 2014, Lucie Prothero, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches who specialises falls claims, said: “We wholeheartedly support the work being done by Age UK and associated charities to promote falls prevention. Falls and fall-related injuries are a common and serious problem for older people, with recent statistics revealing that 30% of people over 65 and 50% of people over 80 fall at least once a year in the UK.
“Falls are estimated to cost the NHS more than £2.3 billion per year but the human cost of falling includes distress, pain, injury, loss of confidence, loss of independence and mortality. This was highlighted in the updated NICE Guidelines on the Assessment and Prevention of Falls in Older People published last year.
“We receive many enquiries and claims relating to avoidable falls in older people, either as a result of poor management in hospital or in the community-care context. Such falls can lead to devastating injuries such as disabling hip fractures, brain injury and even death. Where falls result in hospital admissions that would otherwise have been avoidable, this puts further strain on the NHS acute health services such as the ambulance service and A&E departments.
“Often, simple yet effective measures can be taken to minimise the risk of falls occurring and to help older people stay safe when mobilising. Falls amongst the elderly are becoming an increasing problem and this will only become more prominent as the UK population ages. We strongly support the practical advice being given by Age UK to empower older people to better guard themselves against their risk of falling.”