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Sherwood Forest Hospitals launches five-point plan to prevent falls

Sue and Graham Horrey web

Sue Horrey is recovering at home with the support of husband Graham after a hip replacement


November 25, 2016


Medics at Sherwood Forest Hospitals today issued a five-point plan to help frail and older people protect themselves against falls.

Frail and older people are at particular risk of falling, which can lead to a dramatic decline in health and even death.

They are warning that broken bones, particularly hip fractures, can have a devastating impact, leading to long-term disability and potential loss of independence.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Bala Srinivasan said taking extra care in icy and wet conditions is just one aspect of reducing the risk of falling.

“Frail and older people – supported by friends, family and carers need to make sure they stay well over winter.

“Having a flu vaccination, keeping warm, eating well to stay healthy and taking a few simple measures around the home all help to prevent falls.

“Even a short stay in hospital can result in long-term loss of independence - so tripping over a loose carpet or something left on the floor could result in a hip fracture, a serious operation and that patient never being able to return to their own home again,” said Mr Srinivasan.

The five-point guide to avoiding falls this winter encourages people to:

1. Check your home for potential hazards

  • Loose carpets and rugs
  • Trailing electrical cables
  • Wet floors (kitchen and bathroom)
  • Poor lighting
  • Furniture in the wrong place
  • Objects on the floor, such as books, papers, shoes
  • Stairs – Loose carpets, broken hand rails
  • If you wear glasses, avoid varifocal glasses as they can affect depth perception
  • Storage – Frequently used items on high shelves, which can only be reached by standing on a chair or a stool
  • Making sure your shoes, slippers fit well.

2. Look after yourself

Make sure you take regular exercise - walking and swimming are good – to maintain muscle and bone strength as well as improve balance. If you need walking aids make sure this is checked by a health care professional and it is a suitable one for you. It will also help maintain a good appetite so you get enough nutrients in your diet.

3. Eat well

It is common for older people to eat and drink less. This can lead to malnutrition and weakness. When your appetite is small, make sure you eat food containing all the nutrients needed for the body to maintain your health.  You should always try to consume a balanced diet which contains the following ingredients:

  • Fat: Giving you energy e.g. oily fish, cheese, avocado, vegetable oils and nuts
  • Carbohydrate:  gives us energy and fibre helps to prevent constipation, which affects the quality of life of many older people. We can get these from wholegrain cereal products like breakfast cereals, brown rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, fruits and vegetables, potatoes and pulses like beans, peas and lentils
  • Protein: Helps to  build and repair body tissues. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt, meat and poultry, eggs and pulses
  • Vitamins: Essential for the body to function, you can get these from, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products
  • Vitamin D and Calcium: Essential to keep you bones strong and healthy. Good sources are oily fish and dairy products
  • Iron: For health blood. Good sources include red meat, offal such as liver, dark green leafy vegetables, pulses and some dried foods.
  • Fluid: Drink plenty of fluids (avoiding alcohol and caffeine).

4. Be aware of medical problems

Some medical problems can make you prone to falling like:

  • Arthritis
  • Dizzy spells
  • Confusion caused by medication, general illness or dementia
  • Blood pressure problems, Mini Stroke or heart problems
  • Problems with vision

If you suffer from medical problems, approach health care professionals like your GP to have regular checks to try to keep them under control. If you are a relative or carer, be aware of the heightened risks and encourage regular check-ups with health professionals.

5. Keep warm and stay well this winter

  • Have your flu jab – book your appointment now if you haven’t already.
  • Wear warm clothes in layers
  • Have a hot drink regularly and if you find moving about difficult, have a flask handy.
  • Don’t take any risks in snow or icy conditions. If you have to go out, make sure you wear shoes with a good grip and if possible take a relative or a friend to help you.
  • Stock up on store cupboard basics such as soup, tinned fish and long life milk in  case you can’t get out of your home for a couple of days
  • Make sure you know how to contact your relatives or friends by phone – it’s easy to lose touch in the winter when people aren’t out and about as much
  • Ask about any benefits, grants and discounts you might be entitled to such as pension credits, winter fuel payments and insulation.

Trauma and orthopaedic Consultant Paresh Kothari said swift action was vital for anyone who did suffer a neck of femur (hip bone) fracture.

“Someone who comes into our Emergency Department with a fractured neck of femur will be fast-tracked, directly admitted and operated on as soon as possible.

“For the past six months more than 80 percent of cases at Sherwood Forest Hospitals have been operated on within 36 hours, putting the care we provide for the people of Ashfield, Mansfield, Newark and Sherwood among the best in the country,” he said.

The Trust’s multi-disciplinary approach incorporates National Institute for Health and Care Excellence  (NICE) best-practice guidelines into the way it handles falls.

Ortho-Geriatric Registrar, Dr Kerri Ramsay, said: “Our orthopaedic multi-disciplinary team will carry out bone health and falls risk assessments – looking at the reasons why our patients fall in the first place and why the fall resulted in a serious break. The outcome of these assessments can result in prescribing medication to increase bone strength and planning for a safe discharge.

“Other contributions as part of the multi-disciplinary approach can lead to advice on diet and food supplements for a patient as well as recommended changes at home to ensure falls do not happen again.”

Sue Horrey broke her right hip after falling while getting out of the car outside her Mansfield home.

“It was Friday lunchtime and after an ambulance trip to King’s Mill Hospital and X-rays, I was admitted to ward 12. The operation was carried out on Saturday morning and I was back on the ward within two hours waiting for my husband Graham to arrive.

“A physiotherapist came on the Monday, set me up with crutches and checked I could get up and about and an occupational therapist made sure I had everything I needed at home. I was discharged on the Thursday – six days later.”

More information about preventing falls is available from the Royal Voluntary Service website and the Patient website