On the 28th September, we will be running our virtual Preventing Falls in Older People online training course.
Unaddressed fall hazards in the home are estimated to cost the NHS in England £435 million, with over 65s accounting for a vast amount of these falls. Before we jump into how we can lessen the chances of older people from falling, it’s important that we understand why they are more likely to fall.
5 Reasons Why Older People Are More Prone to Falls:
1. Weakened Muscles
As we get older, our muscles weaken, sometimes causing pain as well as a higher risk to falling. Although we can’t prevent getting older, there is a way to strengthen muscles, and it’s quite simple – being active. The official NHS exercise webpage recommends taking part in physical activity which improves strength, balance and flexibility at least two days a week. Whether this is lifting weights or gardening, this could reduce older people’s chances of falling as well as lessen their chances of becoming completely dependent.
2. Poorer Vision
Starting as early as 40 years old, reading small prints and close distance vision may become difficult. Studies show that one in three older people over 65 experience trouble with their eyesight – this is a major risk and can contribute to falling. Whilst a new pair of glasses or contacts is usually the solution to most reduced-vision problems, this may in fact increase the risk of an older person falling as it may take some time to adjust to these changes. However, there are positive changes that can be made in older people’s settings which brings us to the next point.
3. Environmental Hazards
Once falling over has become a concern for an older person, their surroundings may need to be slightly adjusted to ensure they are not at further risk. For example; rooms, hallways and staircases at home may need nightlights, and pathways should be clear of any clutter at all times. The NHS recommend the use of well-kept non-slip mats and rugs around the home as well as replacing less visible pieces of furniture such as coffee tables. Considering what may become harmful in the event of a fall can help to reduce falls; for example, loose electrical cords and sharp edges.
4. Certain Medications
Dementia and delirium patients are four to five times more likely to fall. The medication they may be prescribed to control their symptoms could contribute to this. Drugs such as donepezil can cause dizziness and drowsiness, resulting in a reduced lack of awareness. Whilst this is a complex situation, some measures have been put in place to reflect the significant changes to the way in which health services deliver care to patients in England (read more about this here). For example, pharmacists are to discuss medication instructions and side effects upon dispensing to older people or their carer. Knowing there is a chance of reduced overall ability after taking a certain medication should prevent any strenuous movement, thus, preventing falls.
5. Impact of Covid-19
Just like many things, Covid-19 has also played a part in the increase in falls among older people. Since the very beginning of the pandemic, older people have been confined to their homes. Naturally, not partaking in any outdoor activity takes its toll on the body, causing muscles to weaken and increasing the likelihood of falling. Falls can cause short and long-term effects on older people; studies show that hip fractures alone account for 1.8 million hospital bed days and £1.9 billion in hospital costs every year, excluding the high cost of social care.
You can find out more about how Covid-19 has influenced the number, type and severity of falls in another of our blog pieces here: Falls Prevention with Professor Cameron Swift, King's College London.
Furthermore, to help prevent falls in older people, it is essential that all who work in this space stay on top of the latest NICE guidelines – our online training course ensures attendees are up to date with any changes.