The annual April Falls campaign by the Health Quality and Safety Commission seeks to raise awareness of the harm of falls and this year has a theme of Live Stronger for Longer to try and help prevent falls which impact on one-in-three people aged over 65 each year.

Sandy Blake, Clinical lead for the Commission’s reducing harm from falls programme, says falls can be devastating for older people.

‘Not every fall results in an injury, but those that do can cause broken bones, which can be painful and take a long time to heal.’

She said a fall can also make people fearful of falling again which stops them doing the things they used to do. “This can lead to social isolation and even depression.”

Last year the Commission, ACC and the Ministry of Health launched the Live Stronger for Longer website which seeks to prevent falls in people over 65 and keep them independent at home.  It includes a focus on ‘use it or lose it’, based around the clinical evidence that exercises that strengthen leg and core muscles help improve balance and reduce the risk of falling.  The website provides links to community strength and balance classes nationwide that have been given the quality ‘tick’ for meeting the nine clinical assessment criteria for community group or in-home programmes for older people.

Blake said over half of people aged over 80 will have a fall each year and for those whose fall results in a hip fracture only half of those who survive will walk unaided again. “Many will not regain their former degree of mobility, and this can result in admission to aged residential care earlier than would otherwise be expected.”

She said the good news was that it was never too late to build up bones and keep them strong and healthy.

“Exercise classes can help prevent falls and give older people the chance to have some fun and meet new people, or see if in-home support is appropriate.”

“If you know of anyone who has had a fall, or has limited their activities because of a fall, encourage them to join a class in their community!”

Meanwhile the Commission’s Reducing Harm from Falls programme continues to also work on reducing in-hospital falls which has helped lead to 107 fewer in-hospital falls resulting in fractured hips between September 2014 and September 2017.

It also continues to promote health care workers to “Ask, Assess, Act” to identify those who may be most at risk of falls with a summary of the three key screening questions and other information  released on a pocket card.

More information here on the Reducing Harm from Falls campaign.

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