Falls can have major impact on quality of life

Fractures are most problematic injury
  • Deborah Condon

Every year in Ireland, around 60,000 people need medical attention following a fall and this can have a major impact on their quality of life, experts have said.

Figures show that in 2016, falls accounted for 77% of all major trauma in people over the age of 65. By 2017, this had increased to 81%.

Furthermore, the estimated cost of fall-related injuries is projected to hit €1.07 billion in 2020, rising to over €2 billion by 2030.

These figures were highlighted at AFFINITY - the National Falls and Bone Health Symposium, which took place in Dublin this week. The theme of this year's event was ‘Preventing Harm from Falls - Making it Happen Together'.

AFFINITY is the national falls prevention and bone health project that was established to help reduce harm from falls among people in Ireland. This work is being led by the HSE, working with the State Claims Agency (SCA), Age Friendly Ireland and older people.

The aim of the project is to increase awareness of the preventable nature of falls and to empower older people, communities and healthcare providers by:
-Reducing the risk and rate of falling where possible
-Reducing the severity of injuries
-Promoting the best possible outcomes for people who have suffered a falls-related injury.

Falls can have a devastating impact on people, causing among other things, pain and loss of independence.

While there are many injuries that can occur as a result of a fall, fractures tend to be the most problematic. For example, in 2017, over 3,600 patients aged 60 or older were hospitalised following a hip fracture, and the number of hospitalisations for such fractures are projected to triple between now and 2046.

Meanwhile, 168 people over the age of 65 died from fall-related incidents in 2017. This accounted for almost 77% of all deaths due to accidental falls.

The symposium was attended by over 300 people, including healthcare professionals and service users.

Opening the symposium, Michael Fitzgerald of the HSE Older People and Palliative Care Strategy, explained that this event is "a wonderful opportunity to learn from national and international experiences of a system-wide approach to developing and enhancing falls prevention and bone health services in Ireland".

"Building collaborations across multiple sectors is vital as falls prevention and bone health spans right across our health services and the community in general. Everyone can get involved and do their part to tackle this issue," he said.

The HSE offers the following fall prevention tips:
-Keep active - maintain your strength and balance through regular exercise
-Ensure good lighting in your home
-Get regular eye tests
-Wear correctly fitting shoes and ensure laces are tied
-Be aware of any medication you are taking and any possible side-effects
-Take your time when getting up from sitting or sleeping
-Be aware of trip hazards in your home including clutter, trailing cables or wires, loose rugs etc...


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