Published Thursday 29 January 2015 at 9:12
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has launched a campaign to reduce falls after evidence showed they are the most common accident affecting people over 65.
National statistics show one in three people over 65 falls at least once a year, with most falls happening in the home or garden and often resulting in an emergency hospital admission. There were an estimated 5,400 falls in Blackburn with Darwen last year, with numbers predicted to grow as the population ages unless action is taken to raise awareness.
The risk of falls for older people is particularly high in colder months and especially affects people with long term conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, people taking four or more different medicines, and people with sight or hearing difficulties.
The FALLSTOP campaign aims to raise awareness of simple steps people can take to stay on their feet and carry on doing the activities they enjoy as they get older. Central to the campaign is the FALLSTOP advice leaflet, which will be available in GP practices, pharmacies, and community venues such as libraries, community and leisure centres and online at www.refreshbwd.com. The leaflet provides basic tips on how people can ‘fallstop’ themselves, their homes and the people they know or care for, and how to access Council fall prevention services, if applicable.
Two ‘FALLSTOP Challenge’ events are planned for Blackburn and Darwen town centres, when shoppers will have the chance to spot fall hazards in a pop-up living room. FALLSTOP will also be promoted at a series of community events during February and March.
Councillor Mohammed Khan, the Council’s executive member for health and adult social care, said:
“Falls are one of the most common accidents, but in most cases they can be easily prevented. We have launched this campaign to make people aware of the things that will make them more likely to trip or fall and the simple steps they can take to protect themselves or someone they care for. Simple changes such as getting regular eye tests, removing frayed carpets or clutter in the home and offering to help family or an older neighbour with simple home maintenance and DIY will reduce the likelihood of a fall and help keep people safe and well.”
Cllr Brian Taylor, the Council’s Older Person’s Champion, welcomed the FALLSTOP campaign, saying:
“People can fall at any age and it is true that falls become more common as people get older, but we want to use FALLSTOP to blow the myth that falls are an inevitable part of growing older. I’m pleased that we are doing something proactive to reduce the risk of trips and falls rather than just accepting them. My message to people is that if they can act now to prevent a fall and possible hospital admission, they’ll be able to carry on doing all the things they enjoy for much longer.”
Reducing accidents among people over 65 in Blackburn with Darwen was highlighted as one of the priorities of a multi-agency Accident Prevention Strategy that was drawn up in consultation with local organisations and residents last year. The work identified a lack of awareness among local people of services that can help prevent falls and the need for more information.
The Council’s Wellbeing Service provides a wide range of information, advice and practical support for people of all ages about simple changes to help stay strong and healthy and prevent falls in later life, as well as providing some dedicated services for people over 60 such as home safety checks and falls prevention exercise sessions. For more information, contact the Council’s health and wellbeing advisers, who will be able to put you in touch with the service you need on 01254 682037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Warner, 83, accessed the Council’s fall prevention services after having five falls inside his Blackburn home and on his driveway and being unable to get up.
A former policeman for over 30 years, achieving Superintendent before retirement, Jim has lived all his life in Blackburn and has a son and a daughter and two grandchildren also living in the area.
“The first time I fell was back in 2012 when I was making tea in the kitchen. I just suddenly lost my balance and found myself on the floor. Luckily my wife was in and came to help me up. A couple of months later, I tripped again while looking around the garden with my son, then again the same year on the landing, just through loss of balance. I fell one other time by the garage, but the fourth occasion was the worst. I fell again outside the front door, but it was raining. I was on the floor in the rain for five minutes before I managed to reach up and ring the bell to alert my wife. After that, my daughter contacted the Council and I was referred to the Wellbeing service.”
Jim was assessed at home and referred into the classes at the united reform church at Four Lane Ends, Blackburn and St Gabriel’s Church, Blackburn, which he started attending around 12 months ago.
“I’ve been going regularly ever since and I’ve found it very helpful there’s no doubt about it. The team are excellent and allow you to do everything at your own pace. It has made a marvellous difference to my overall balance and I feel much more confident getting around. As well as the classes, I was also provided with an alarm which I wear on my wrist. If I fall again, I can press the button and it goes through to a call centre and they can send the cavalry if need be. They have also put a system in place so that the police can get into my house if I am unable to answer the door.”
As well as help with his mobility, James has received advice and guidance on avoiding future falls, all of which have helped to build his confidence up.
“I would recommend the service to anyone who has had any problems with falls. I didn’t know such a service existed and it’s been worth its weight in gold for me. It’s made me more agile than I was and, whilst I might not be running any marathons any time soon, I’m far better than I was.”
Hilda Salter, 87, accessed classes via the Wellbeing Service around a year and a half ago and is under no illusions as to how vital it is for keeping her independence.
A former teacher, before her retirement Hilda was Head of English at Blackburn Girls’ High School (which later became Blackburn Grammar School for Girls and then Witton Park High School). Hilda accessed the service via GP referral after experiencing some stiffness in her joints.
“I was seeing my doctor for another matter and I mentioned that it was starting to get harder and harder getting up and down stairs and how I’d had a small fall outdoors. He referred me to the exercise classes. I started attending once a week and, although I was a bit unsure at first, before long I felt very comfortable and even started to enjoy the social aspect of it. There’s no doubt about it, this class is keeping me in my own house. I was struggling with the stairs so without the help I’ve had, I think I’d have to go into a retirement home.
The way the service is run is brilliant. You get a thorough evaluation to begin with so they know exactly what your requirements are and then you work at your own pace. Recently there has been around 17 people in the class which for me is great. You are amongst people who know how you’re feeling and actually we have a really good laugh.”
Hilda says she is noticing tangible benefits and feeling steadier on her feet. She added:
“I’m aware that the muscles in my thighs are strengthening and it’s easier to go up and down stairs. I’m really happy with the help I’ve had and can’t recommend the service more highly. It’s important that more people know about it.”
Ann Astley, 70, has been attending Wellbeing exercise classes for two years after a number of falls while out and about. Born in Blackburn and now living in the Livesey area, Ann spent most of her working career as a car paint rep for a company in Preston. Married with two sons and a daughter, Ann’s ambition in starting the classes was to prevent falls and get back on her bike.
“I’ve always been a great walker and cyclist so, as you can imagine, I wasn’t happy when I started finding myself having tumbles when I was out and about. The first fall I had was on the way back from Zumba class, would you believe? I was just coming down the steps and missed a step, I think due to my varifocals. It was very embarrassing because I rolled down right in front of a bus queue. A very nice man offered to call an ambulance, but I just dusted myself off. Another time I fell in the supermarket and almost ended up in the freezer cabinet. I also fell into a display in a charity shop. It wasn’t funny really though. Luckily those times, all that was hurt was my pride. But another time when I fell on wet grass in the park I ended up cutting my arms quite badly. My husband was starting not to want to let me out of the house without him.
But then when I was referred by the doctor and I started coming to weekly classes. Just with balance and strengthening exercises, the difference has been amazing. I feel much more confident. In fact, so much so, that I have achieved my ambition of getting back out and about on my bike, which makes a big difference to my independence.
I think it’s really worthwhile for more people to know about the Council services that are available for people at risk from falls. It’s better to prevent falls ever happening and stay independent than just once you’ve already fallen.”