This week is Age UK’s Falls Awareness Week (17th-21st June). Every year around 30 per cent of over 65s will fall; this increases to 50 per cent in those aged over 80. Falls can be a particular worry for older people and can cause a loss of mobility and confidence; for some the consequences can even be fatal. A lot can be done to prevent falls and this awareness week should also act as a reminder to the public that pharmacists can help reduce the risk of falls among older people.
Falls happen for a number of different reasons; medication is a known risk factor. Pharmacists have the expertise and skills to identify people at risk of falls and reduce the risks of falls and fractures through NHS services e.g. Medicines Use Reviews (MURs) in England and Wales and the Chronic Medication Servicein Scotland. These are an opportunity for patients to discuss their medicines with a pharmacist, to understand why they’ve been prescribed, how they should be used and in the case of falls resolve any problems patients may be having with their medication.
Many pharmacists offer drop-in falls services. These include MURs, but they also offer information and advice, free blood pressure checks, walking stick MOTs, grimy glass cleans, and shoe and slipper assessments.
Falls can also be prevented by ensuring you keep your feet healthy. Foot pain, stiffness in toes and ankles, bunions, claw toes and toenail disorders can all affect someone’s balance, walking and reduce sensation in the feet leading to a slip, trip or fall. The key thing is that older people or people caring for older people must report this to their doctor, pharmacist or nurse.
Exercise plays a vital part in reducing the risk. According to Age UK there are a number of research trials which show a programme of strength and balance can be particularly effective in reducing risk. Much of the focus of these is to strengthen the leg but exercises to improve toe and ankle strength can also help with balance and functional ability.
Footwear is just as essential. If your shoes don’t fit right you’re putting yourself at risk of a fall.
If you want more advice about falls prevention visit your local pharmacy for advice and support.