Falls, fracture prevention and bone health

Keeping active and healthy as we grow older is an important issue for many of us. Our independence is a valuable commodity. Please take some time to read these pages which make some suggestions on how to stay healthy, well and independent into older age.

We all stumble from time to time but as we get older we may end up on the floor rather than being able to keep ourselves upright. A fall is defined as ‘unexpectedly landing at a lower level than intended’ So that would include slipping out of bed, a chair or sitting back down in the chair, when intending to stand up.

If we are ill we can easily become weak and lose our strength and balance. We are then more prone to falls. The next pages help to look at how strong we are and ways to help ourselves maintain our fitness or improve our fitness level, so we maximise our strength and balance.

It is true that many older people worry about falls before they have experienced them. This is often the best time to seek advice and help. The earlier action is taken, the better the outcome. It is important to remember that if you talk about your falls, very often, something can be done to prevent them. Let your GP and any health and social care worker know if you are worried about falling or have had any falls.

Facing up to falls – a personal story

Falls – The local picture

Locally, with the population in Torbay, we could statistically expect over 10,000 falls per year. Falls can lead to injury, reduced quality of life, reduced mobility and loss of independence.

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust is committed to identifying people who are at risk of falls or already falling in order to establish the risk factors and help to reduce those that are modifiable. Our aim is to help people understand that often falls can be prevented, that they are not an inevitable part of ageing and the need to inform health and social care staff of their falls in order for us to help modify the risks.

Falls – The national picture

The current human and economic cost of falls is staggering: ‘one older person dying as a result of a fall every 5 hours in England’ and ‘fractured hips costing the NHS and social services £1.8 billion in England’. Ian Philp, National Director for Older People at the Department of Health.

Each year, over 700,000 older people in the United Kingdom (UK) attend hospital accident and emergency departments (A&E) following a fall and many more attend minor injury units (MIUs), or call for ambulance assistance. Falls and resultant fractures in people aged 65 and over account for over 4 million bed days each year in England alone. Injurious falls, including over 60,000 hip fractures annually, are the leading cause of accident-related mortality in older people. Falls may also result in loss of confidence, activity restriction, reduced functional ability and thus increased dependency on carers and services.

Testimonies of local people who have taken steps to reduce their falls risks

“I cannot recommend the Strength and Balance Class highly enough. I attended some years ago and, since then, have literally gone from strength to strength!”

“Previously I was unfit and kept tripping. I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, improved my stamina and stopped tripping!”

“I have found great improvement and happiness for all your wonderful exercises, it has been a great help to me, giving me my self-confidence back, which I have lost through my nasty falls”

“You don’t realise how much you have improved and then suddenly you reach for something and find you didn’t have to push your arm up or you are doing things in the kitchen and not leaning on worktops.

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