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Helping older people stay independent this winter by preventing falls

Info-graphic: Stay independent prevent falls.

More than 26,000* older people attended emergency departments in Northern Ireland after a fall last year and falls are listed as the number one reason for trauma in older people at emergency departments.

As part of this year’s Stay Well This Winter campaign, health professionals are urging older people and those who care for them to be aware of how falls can happen and to take steps to prevent this.

Dr Miriam McCarthy, Director of Commissioning, Health and Social Care Board said, “A person over 80 who spends a week in hospital will experience the equivalent of 10% loss of strength and for some, this could mean the difference between dependence and independence.  Loss of independence may affect the ability to climb stairs, get in and out of bed or even stand up from the toilet. It also takes twice as long for older people who have suffered injury as a result of falling to regain their mobility. That’s why we are recommending older people take some preventative action including regular exercise.”

Every year in Northern Ireland, 1 in 3 of over-65 year olds and around half of those over 85s** will fall at least once.

Marie Roulston, Social Care Director, Health and Social Care Board added, “We also know that an older person who falls and loses mobility can lose confidence, become depressed, more socially isolated and their health and wellbeing can rapidly decline.”

The “Stay Well” campaign, jointly led by the Health and Social Care Board and the Public Health Agency, encourages people, especially those at most risk of a preventable hospital admission, to take actions that will help them stay well during winter. This includes reducing falls in older people, getting a flu vaccination, keeping homes warm and getting advice from a pharmacist as appropriate at the first sign of illness. It also incorporates key advice around common winter illnesses and the range of services available to help people make the most appropriate choices for their healthcare needs.

Here are some tips for older people who may be concerned or worried about falling:

Speak Up

Keep Moving

Activities that strengthen your legs and help your balance can help prevent falls. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists has put together a short video of six easy strength and balance exercises which can be done in the home daily.

Check Your Eyes

Make sure you get your eyes checked once a year and update your glasses if needed.

Make Your Home Safe. Most falls happen at home

The “Stay Well” campaign encourages people to take better care of themselves, planning ahead so they are prepared to face the winter in better health. It is focused on increasing uptake of the flu vaccination among children age 2 – 4 and in primary school, pregnant women, older people and those with long term health conditions.

For older people, this includes advice on keeping healthy to prevent falling, encouraging people to seek advice from a pharmacy at the first signs they are feeling unwell and urging people to order repeat prescriptions before the holiday period.

Further information about Stay Well can be found at www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/stay-well

* The number of new ED attendances for patients aged 65 or over with a Fall in the triage text for FY2017/18 regionally is 26,528 (Health and Social Care Board.

** Information from NICE, 2013