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Falls prevention: an important part of elderly care

It is an unfortunate fact that falling is a natural part of ageing. According to the charity Age UK, around 30% of people over 65 and 50% of people over 80 will have a fall each year. Such is the preponderance of falling amongst the elderly that Age UK holds an annual Falls Awareness Week in order to alert people to the issues around falling and how to prevent falls from occurring.

What causes falling?

Various factors can cause an elderly individual to have a fall. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued a document entitled ‘Clinical practice guideline for the assessment and prevention of falls in older people’ in 2004 in which it detailed various risk factors. The most likely causes of a fall, according to their data, are muscle weakness, history of falls, gait deficit, balance deficit, visual deficit and depression.

The report’s authors also singled out Parkinson’s disease, stroke and generalised pain as major contributors.

A serious concern

According to the NHS, some elderly individuals may be reluctant to seek advice about fall prevention from their GP because they believe that their concerns will not be taken seriously. In fact, all health professionals take falls in the elderly extremely seriously. This is because such falls can have a serious impact. If an elderly person is already frail, then a fall can cause damage far beyond light bruising. Indeed, fractures and breakages are common consequences of falling in the elderly.

Physiotherapy for prevention and cure

Both the NHS and NICE recommend strength and balance training as a way to reduce the risk of falling. A qualified physiotherapist will be able to work with an elderly individual in order to build up weak muscles and improve balance – two of the major contributors towards falling.

Physiotherapists who specialise in elderly care may also be able to focus on the physical issues caused by conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, both of which can increase the incidence of falling.

It should also be noted that such therapy can also rehabilitate an elderly person after a fall.

Long-term care for a long-term solution

If you or your loved one lives alone, then falling may be a particular concern. In this instance, you may consider enlisting the services of a high-quality live-in care provider. A carer who is qualified in elderly care will be able to assist an individual around the home, which minimises the risk of falling. Of course, should a fall occur, the carer will be available to give immediate help.