Falls amongst older people can have a devastating impact
but they are not an inevitable part of ageing
Three charities who work with older people on a regular basis have joined forces to address the devastating impact that falls can have on older people in Wales.
Age Connects Wales, Age Cymru and Care & Repair Cymru have come together to highlight an issue that is all too often only talked about when it is too late, re-assure those who have suffered a fall that they are not the only ones and encourage older people to take as many preventative measures as possible.
This work also aims to encourage professionals working with older people to do all they can to help prevent falls and provide appropriate support to those who have suffered a fall. Funded by the Welsh Government, the campaign is also endorsed by the National Falls Prevention Taskforce who’s wide network will be actively supporting this work.
The devastating impact of falls amongst older people: 700 older people in Wales will die from a fall this year
According to Public Health Wales forecasting, more than 700 older people in Wales will die from a fall this year, with a further 7,750 requiring hospital based treatment. It also predicts that more than 132,000 older people in Wales will fall more than once in their home. It is estimated that the combined falls amongst older people costs the NHS in Wales a staggering £2.3 billion.
The partnership also reveals that, following a fall, 2,800 older people will suffer a hip fracture often requiring extensive treatment. One of the saddest aspects is that each year more than 1,400 older people will lose their independence as a result of a fall. Many lose their self-confidence and seek some form of sheltered accommodation, perhaps many years before they intended such a move.
Falls are not an inevitable part of ageing
Age Connect Wales’ Karen Steele says: “Falls are not an inevitable part of ageing and there are many things people can do to help reduce their risk of falling. For example, staying active through regular exercise helps improve core strength and balance. There are many safe exercises for older people such as Nordic Walking and Tai Chi. Older people should also look after their feet and make sure they don’t allow their toe nails to grow too long. When out and about older people should keep themselves hydrated and remember to use their walking aids.”
Age Cymru’s Angharad Phillips urges older people not to live in fear of falling. She says: “Older people should speak to their GP about any concerns they may have about falling and also to their pharmacist about the possible side effects of the medication they’ve been prescribed. Older people can also take advantage of a free eye test once they reach 60 years of age. The important thing is to seek help and not suffer in silence.”
Care & Repair Cymru’s Neil Williams adds: “There is much we can do to make our homes safer in terms of falls prevention. For example, installing grab rails in strategic positions around the home, taping down frayed carpets and rugs and ensuring stairs and steps are well lit and are not a hazard. We’d also urge people to review how they can live safely, with some simple advice like checking they have safe footwear and to make sure they’re not wearing old slippers that no longer support their feet correctly.”
Case Study – Mair Morgan 85, Rural Wales
Despite being fit and healthy Mair suffered a fall after visiting her daughter in a neighbouring village. Mair tripped over a broken pavement causing her to fall to the ground and injuring her knee. The fall left her in severe pain, and needed prescribed painkillers just to sleep at night.
Initially, Mair’s painful knee prevented her from undertaking her usual household chores and she therefore had to rely upon her family to look after her for a short while. This was particularly difficult for Mair who had always cherished her ability to live an independent life. Mair visited her GP who decided to refer her to a physiotherapist who is now slowly re-building the strength in her leg. Despite taking place in the middle of the lockdown, Mair said that the care and attention she received from the health service was faultless and it reassured her that she would become active and independent once more.
Mair, who has since reported the broken pavement to the local authority to help prevent others from falling, said the psychological pain was just as bad as the physical pain as she used to teach Nordic Walking and considered herself to be an active and fit person so her pride was deeply hurt from the fall.
Mair’s advice to other older people on preventing falls is to keep as active and fit as possible. She says there are lots of activities and exercises classes suitable for older people such as Tai Chi and Nordic Walking. Mair also wanted to pay tribute to the kind people who stopped to help her and make sure she was safe immediately after the fall.
For more advice and information about falls and falls awareness, please contact:
Age Connects Torfaen
Telephone 01495 769264