Slips trips and falls account for a huge number of hospital admissions every day and can have devastating consequences to human lives. Anyone can have a fall but the elderly are more vulnerable. According to Public Health England, falls are the most common cause of death from injury in the over 65s and cost the NHS over £2bn a year and over 4 million bed days!
Around 1 in 3 adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year.
Whilst most falls do not result in serious injury, there’s always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones, and this can cause the person to lose confidence, become withdrawn, and feel as if they have lost their independence, especially if their mobility is compromised.
Why are older people more likely to fall?
Risk factors that contribute to older people falling generally belong to one of three categories:
- Health-based risks – this includes things like balance problems, muscle weakness, chronic illnesses such as heart disease, dementia or low blood pressure, which can lead to dizziness, and medication side-effects.
- Environmental risks – these are things like home hazards (e.g. wet floors, poorly secured carpets and rugs, inadequate lighting), outside hazards (e.g. icy driveways, steps with no handrail). This category can also include improper use of or failure to use a walker, cane, or other assistive device.
- Triggers: These are the sudden or occasional events that cause a challenge to balance or strength. They can be things like reaching for storage areas, such as a cupboard, rushing to get to the toilet during the day or at night, a strong dog pulling on a lead or, particularly among older men, falling from a ladder while carrying out home maintenance work.
If older adults and family caregivers are encouraged to learn to think about fall risk factors, they can take positive steps to minimise the risks of falling.
Age Uk has great resources for helping people prevent falls from happening.
What should I do if I’m alone and I fall?
- Try to stay calm. If you’re not hurt and you feel strong enough, get up slowly
- Roll on to your hands and knees and look for a stable piece of furniture, such as a chair or bed
- Hold on to the furniture with both hands to support yourself and slowly get up
- Sit down and rest for a while before carrying on with your daily activities
- If you’re hurt or unable to get up, try to get someone’s attention by calling out for help, banging on the wall or floor, or using your aid call button (if you have one). If possible, crawl to a telephone and dial 999 to ask for an ambulance
- Try to reach for something warm such as a blanket to put over you, particularly your legs and feet
- Stay as comfortable as possible and try to change your position at least once every half an hour or so
First Aid for Falls – how to help someone who has had a fall
- First check that you and the casualty aren’t in any danger
- Approach the casualty calmly and reassuringly
- Are they responsive (conscious)?
- If not responsive – are they breathing?
- If they are breathing normally, monitor their airway and breathing and wait for the ambulance
- If they are not breathing call 999 for an ambulance immediately and ask someone to get a defibrillator
- Leave the casualty in the position they’re in and open their airway (place 1 hand on the casualty’s forehead and gently tilt their head back, lifting the tip of the chin using 2 fingers. This moves the tongue away from the back of the throat.)
- If this isn’t possible in the position they’re in, gently lay them on their back and open their airway
- If you think the person may have a spinal injury, place your hands on either side of their head and use your fingertips to gently lift the angle of the jaw forward and upwards, without moving the head, to open the airway
- Start CPR (30 chest compressions to 2 breaths)
If you are a professional carer, you should act according to your organisation’s emergency policy.
If the casualty IS responsive (conscious):
- Reassure them and try to find out how the accident happened. Be gentle and do not stress them if they are confused
- See if there is any obvious bleeding, bruising or obvious sign of a bone injury
- If you think they may have fallen from a height or could have injured their neck or spine, DO NOT move them. Try and keep them as still as possible and discourage them from twisting.
- Call 999 for an ambulance and keep reassuring them until paramedics arrive
- If you are aware of any bleeding apply firm pressure with a sterile dressing from a first aid kit if possible, if not, use any clean cloth. If you have protective gloves, put them on before treating the casualty
This guidance is for information purposes only and is not a replacement for taking a first aid training course.
Safe and Sound run regular open courses in central London or on-site courses in your workplace or home, 7 days a week across the UK.