The incidence of falls-related injury places a huge burden on the health service and has wider ramifications for the quality of life of those who have suffered as a result. Of those over 65 years, one in three will suffer a fall, with this rising to one in two of those over 85 years. Fractures are common and may lead to recuced mobility and increasing mortality with falls associated deaths as high as 14,000 per year in the UK. Of equal importance is the subsequent fear of falling, which can cause a reduction in mobility, social isolation and a greatly reduced quality of life.
Capturing patients who have fallen for the first time allows us to refer patients to the developing falls teams who can provide a range of supportive measures to prevent the patient from falling in the future. Falls are common in older people. Around 30% of people aged 65 years of age or older have a fall each year. This increases to 50% in people of 80 years or older. By minimising the risk of falls, we can minimise the likelihood of fractures in the future.
A number of risk factors have been identified which increase the risk of falling:
- Conditions which affect mobility or balance such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson's, heart failure or irregular heart rhythms
- Visual impairment
- Cognitive impairment
- Urinary incontinence
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Taking more than four medications
- Other medications such as sleeping tablets and anti-depressants
- Drugs that can cause lowering of blood pressure
However, the strongest risk factor for a fall is a previous fall. It is therefore vital that all non injury falls are reviewed and that the patients GP is aware so that effective referral to the relevant falls prevention services can be made.