Falls and fall-related injuries are a common and serious problem for older people. They can lead to injuries, distress and loss of independence. They can also affect their family and carers.
Each year, medical staff across London deal with thousands of fall-related injuries and, nationally, the NHS spends an estimated £2.3billion a year on them.
In many cases, longer-term effects of falls can mean a greater dependence on social care support in the home or admission to a care home.
Recent research shows strong evidence that early assessment and prevention can reduce the likelihood of falls. Ealing Council works with organisations across the borough on a Falls Prevention Programme which has three strands:
- Advice on what to do to help avoid falling
- What is available locally to help people maintain balance and confidence
- Falls services for people who have had a fall.
Councillor Hitesh Tailor, the council’s cabinet member for health and adult services, said: “As we age, the chances of suffering a fall increase. This can affect our confidence, our balance and make even short trips to the shops or to visit friends a challenge. Our falls prevention team is here to help you to avoid slips, trips and falls. It’s vital to keep fit and maintain balance to make us less prone to falls and prevent injury.”
There are many ways to reduce your risk of having a fall, including doing exercises to improve your strength and balance. StayActive4Life runs free strength and balance programmes throughout the borough, on behalf of the council.
The sessions are led by trained fitness instructors.
David Blackwell has attended sessions in Greenford and Hanwell. He said: “It has changed my life for the better. Having had three falls recently, the exercises have helped me recover quicker. More people should join to increase their strength and save themselves from becoming frail and hurting themselves. It is also a great opportunity to meet and socialise with people on a regular basis.”
Vera O’Higgins, 75, said: “Since joining the class I have been able to carry out day-to-day tasks with more confidence. The strength in my arms and legs has improved and has enabled me to postpone another knee replacement. My posture is better and so is my balance. Without these classes I believe I may have been walking with sticks or a frame.”
Contact StayActive4Life via email at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8574 7785.
A local charity Neighbourly Care has been helping residents feel more socially included again after spells of isolation. Loneliness can have a debilitating effect on health and becoming isolated from the community can make it more difficult to find help and support if you fall.
The charity has its main centre in Ruislip Road, Northolt, but it also offers activities in various locations in West Ealing, Acton, Southall, Greenford and Perivale.
Ealing resident Doris Van Der Heyden has been a volunteer at Neighbourly Care for around three years. She signed up after attending an open day. She said: “It was an impulsive action I have never regretted.
“I took a group of older people to Neighbourly Care’s Big Day Out recently. After an event I asked the older people about their thoughts, and they replied: ‘We arrived knowing no one, but at the end of the day, when we said goodbye, we felt we were leaving friends behind.’ I call that the Neighbourly Care effect.”
You can contact Neighbourly Care on 020 8571 1929 to find out more.
There are other ways in which the council’s team can help you stay safe in the home, including a handyperson scheme which can help older residents with minor jobs around the home – call 020 8825 6070.
To make sure you get help if you should have a fall, Ealing Careline can set you up with a personal alarm.
You can get help in an emergency by pressing a button – either on a pendent worn around your neck or on a telephone unit. There is a charge for the service. Call 020 8575 5873
TOP TIPS TO AVOID FALLS
- Get regular sight and hearing checks
- Look after your feet; wear properly fitted shoes and slippers with non-slip soles. See a chiropodist if necessary
- Be safe moving around your home at night. Increase visibility by keeping a torch by your bed, using night lights or leaving a light on in the hallway and near the toilet
- Remove or tape down uneven tiles or carpeting, especially in walkways, on stairs and doorways. Keep passages clear
- Avoid slips and falls in the bathroom by using a non-slip bath mat
- Drink plenty of water and avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. Alcohol can affect your balance, vision and co-ordination
- If you are sitting for a long time, try to get up for a walk or stretch every 20 minutes
- Improve your balance, strength and co-ordination by trying out a free strength and balance programme or consider Tai Chi, gentle yoga or light stretching classes.
Visit www.ealing.gov.uk/falls for more information.