The number of older people passing away following a severe fall has risen sharply, with commentators describing this as a key indicator of a growing care crisis.
Here, we'll look at these new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Then, we'll explore why falls can be so detrimental and what can be done to reduce risks for older people.
How has the care crisis impacted rates of severe falls?
According to the ONS figures, the number of deaths following a fall has increased rapidly from 2008–2016, especially among older people.
The most pronounced rise was recorded for men aged 85+, who saw rates increase by 177%. Women in the same age group experienced a 72% rise.
Two key factors have contributed towards this worrying rise, according to Dr Eileen Burns, president of the British Geriatrics Society; an ageing population and increasingly stretched care services.
Though the ageing population has undoubtedly played a part, the number of people aged 85+ in the UK has only risen by a comparatively low 19% during the same period.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, gave his take on the wider care crisis:"The NHS does not lack the will or desire to tackle this but, of all the interventions tried, the only one that consistently prevents falls is having a lot of staff in an area, so people are never left alone. This level is far above the traditional ‘safe staffing level’ and almost certainly out of reach of most NHS units in the current socioeconomic climate."
Falls can have a major effect, but are largely preventable
Falls have a detrimental effect on the physical and mental health of older people in a range of ways.
From a physical perspective, older people might experience a head or hip injury due to the fall itself. And, if they're left unattended for a period of time, they risk developing a condition such as pneumonia. Dr Burns commented:“The risk of falling is dramatically increased by the effects of ageing – general frailty, multiple illness and medications. Other factors such as obesity or malnutrition also play a big part. All those also contribute to the after-effects of a fall, including injury and death. A fall with injury can be a final straw.”
Suffering a physical injury – especially in a safe space like the home – and managing its ongoing effects can shake the confidence of older people. This can lead to a decline in their sense of independence, and even cause them to become cut off from their support network.
The Good Care Group's falls prevention programme
Like Dr Scriven, we believe that many falls are preventable. And, that the most effective way to safeguard older people is to improve oversight.
As such, we've developed and implemented an advanced falls prevention programme. Within nine months of putting this programme into place, we saw rates of falls decline by 97%. Overall, the rate of falls among our live-in care clients is now up to 37% lower than for care home residents.
Our falls prevention programme is just part of our wider efforts to improve care standards for older people. We combine feedback from our clients, their loved ones and carers with the latest medical research to consistently enhance our service and help guide national care best practice.
Get the support you need to live confidently and independently in your own home; speak to The Good Care Group team about our live-in care services.