Preventing falls in Somerset

Next week (18th – 24th September) is Falls Prevention Week, a national health campaign to increase awareness around falls health and injury prevention.

Falls are a common, but often overlooked cause of injury. Around 1 in 3 adults over 65 and half of people over 80 will have at least one fall a year. Whilst most falls do not result in serious injury, in Somerset around 8 people over the age of 65 are admitted to hospital every day as a result of a fall.

The effects of a fall on an older person can be devastating and not only physical but a fall can also have a serious psychological effect which can lead to a lack of confidence, increased isolation and it can rob people of their independence.

It is important to recognise the signs of physical decline, not only in ourselves but in our friends and families too. Signs to look out for include:

  • Reduced movement (inside and outside)
  • Disengaging from regular activity
  • Feeling weak or in discomfort
  • Unsteady on feet
  • Fear of falling

There are many things that can be done to prevent falls from happening and strength, flexibility, balance and reaction times are considered the most readily modifiable risk factors for falls. Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership and Age UK Somerset both offer a programme of activities to help our older people stay active and build up strength.

Cllr Adam Dance, Lead Member for Public Health, Equalities and Diversity at Somerset County Council said:

An important aspect of ageing well and living a healthy life is identifying and addressing risk factors. Falls Prevention Awareness Week offers us a great time to remind older adults across Somerset that there are steps they can take to prevent falls and reduce their risk of injury.

Please don’t let a fear of falling keep you from being active. Overcoming this fear can help you stay active, maintain your physical health, and prevent future falls and there is lots of support available across Somerset to help you improve your fitness levels in a safe and controlled setting.

Other steps can be taken to mitigate the risk of falling. It is sensible to keep an eye on your appetite to make sure you’re eating well. Eating throughout the day will ensure you are keeping your energy levels up – an important factor in keeping up strength and preventing falls.

It is also sensible to ensure you stay up to date with regular eye and hearing tests. Eyesight and hearing can severely affect balance so it is important to detect any issues early so they can be appropriately treated. You should tell you doctor if your vision or hearing difficulties, or both, are affecting your day-to-day life. They will arrange an assessment and will explain the help available to make daily tasks easier.

For more information on the steps you should take to prevent falls, including steps you can take within your home to minimise your risk of falling, visit Avoiding a fall | Elderly fall prevention | Age UK.

In this week’s Public Health catch up, Clinton Rogers talks to Michelle Purnell from Age UK who runs exercise sessions for people who are prone too or have a fear of falling.