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With temperatures set to drop further, the NHS in Lancashire and South Cumbria is encouraging all those at risk of falls to take extra care.
Around one in three adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will have more frequent falls. As temperatures plummet, health bosses expect an increasing number of people to be affected and require urgent care.
The winter months bring additional challenges with wet, cold weather, falling leaves, ice and snow become hazardous. Falls are one of the main causes of older people attending under pressure accident and emergency departments and can sometimes lead to lengthy hospital stays.
Dr Kieran Murphy, Medical Director, NHS England (Lancashire and South Cumbria), said: “The natural ageing process means that older people have an increased risk of having a fall. Most falls don’t result in serious injury. However, there’s always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones, and it can cause the person to lose confidence, become withdrawn and feel as if they’ve lost their independence.
“When the weather is really bad, the advice is to think really carefully about going out in the first place.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Older people are at particular risk of falls during winter. The streets can be extremely slippery underfoot due to fallen leaves, accumulations of rain, ice and snow, so we would encourage all older people to take extra care when out and about. When weather conditions are like this a pair of sturdy shoes with non-slip soles are worth their weight in gold as they may prevent a nasty tumble and resultant injury.
“Winter can also be a lonely time for older people if the weather means they are stuck at home, so we’d also urge people to keep an eye on their older family members, friends and neighbours. Bringing in some shopping for them, collecting prescriptions or just stopping by to check they’re ok, and being prepared to have a friendly chat, can be of immense help and support to older people at this time of year.”
David Ratcliffe, Medical Director, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS), said: “The natural ageing process means that older people have an increased risk of having a fall. Most falls don’t result in serious injury. However, there’s always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones, and it can cause the person to lose confidence, become withdrawn and feel as if they’ve lost their independence.”
Between November 2016 and February 2017, NWAS responded to over 30,000 incidents relating to falls in the region, there are many things that can be done to reduce the risk of having a fall, including making simple changes at home and doing exercises to improve strength and balance. Eating well, drinking plenty of fluids and remembering to take any medication is also important to staying healthy and on your feet.
The winter months also bring challenges when it comes to falls. Wet, cold weather falling leaves, ice and snow can be a real hazard. Spreading sand or salt on icy surfaces on walkways, work areas, and steps can help. Windy weather can also affect balance and cause a fall. Try to avoid, open exposed places. Wear shoes or boots with flat, low heels, a slip-resistant sole to reduce slipping hazards and a good tread that helps to grip the surface.
If you’re worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1174 (8am-7pm every day).
If you’re concerned that the person may be suffering from hypothermia, contact NHS 111.