Falls and the elderly – looking at prevention and how to help following a fall.
Here in the UK there are more than 500,000 people aged over 65 who attend accident and emergency departments as the result of accidents at home every year – statistics show that the majority of these being from a fall.
It is recorded that over 3,500 people in England and Wales unfortunately die every year following a fall and nearly 300,000 people will need hospital treatment. It is known that many older people who suffer from falls may never fully recover from either the physical or indeed the psychological impact of their injuries. It is a very sad fact that falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75.
It is also known that the fall itself often doesn’t cause a serious injury; if the faller is unable to get themselves back up following their fall, they are statistically more likely to suffer from things such as hypothermia and pressure sores. We know that most accidents in the elderly are the result of falls from stairs, steps or even from standing on a chair with over 60 per cent of deaths resulting from accidents on stairs.
As we get older it has to be acknowledged that we are more prone to falling and we forget that we cannot respond as quickly as we used to be able to, when we trip or overbalance. Also as our eyesight deteriorates with age it is far easier to miss a step or trip.
• Items should not be left on the stairs as it is too easy to trip over them
• Ensure that damaged carpets are repaired and try to avoid repetitive carpet patterns that can affect perception this makes it more difficult to see individual stairs.
• Ensure landings, stairs and hallways are well lit with two-way light switches
• Ensure banisters are secure and sturdy, two easy-grip handrails gives more stability
General help and advice to prevent injuries:
As we age we are more prone to lose our balance through sudden movements, e.g. getting out of chair too quickly – this is often more evident if taking medication for high blood pressure. Getting up very slowly and bringing the head up last can help to reduce the dizzy effects of postural hypotension.
Floors and surfaces should be as clear as possible. Things such as worn rugs, slippery floors and paths, uneven surfaces, trailing flexes, and items left lying around make falling far more likely.
Pay more attention to footwear – ill-fitting shoes that have lost their grip, or old slippers not put on properly will often precipitate a fall.
Grab rails and places to sit down in the bathroom and kitchen can be really helpful if suddenly feeling dizzy.
Floors should be cleaned carefully to ensure that they are not slippery and any spillages immediately and thoroughly removed.
Advice for someone following a fall:
• Stay as calm as you can and don’t rush to get up – give yourself time to establish whether you are hurt.
• Lie still and work systematically up your body to check for pain or bleeding when moving your limbs.
If you are unhurt:
• If you feel able to get yourself up you are advised to do this very slowly. Roll over so that you can get onto your hands and knees and then look around for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed. If possible then find something soft to kneel on to protect your knees.
• Hold on firmly to the furniture with both hands and use the furniture as a support to assist you in getting up.
• Get up very slowly leaning forward onto your knees, with the cushioning beneath them and holding onto something to help yourself up.
• Take time to recover and phone someone to tell them what happened.
If you are hurt:
If you are hurt or unable to get up;
• try to get someone’s attention by calling for help (use your mobile phone if you have one to hand),
• bang on the wall or floor to alert neighbours,
• or press your emergency aid call button (if you have one).
• Alternatively, try and crawl to your telephone and call someone local or dial 999 to call an ambulance.
Do not exhaust yourself trying to get help.
• It is important that you remain calm and if possible try to cover yourself with something warm, such as a rug or coat. Wrap yourself up as well as you can and get as comfortable as possible.
• It is important to shift your body weight frequently (move around, wriggle) to prevent yourself getting pressure sores and to keep the circulation moving.
• Get any grazes or cuts checked by a medical professional – particularly on shins as it is important that they are appropriately assessed, cleaned and dressed to avoid getting leg ulcers.
Written by Steve Richardson for First Aid Training North East Ltd
We strongly advised that you attend a Practical First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit https://firstaidtrainingnortheastltd.co.uk for more information about our courses. First Aid North East Ltd provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid North East Ltd is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.