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Falls Awareness Week 2021: Preventing a fall and advice if you’ve fallen

ALMOST 35,000 calls have been made to the Welsh Ambulance Service since January for people who have fallen.

It is the number one reason people in Wales have called for an ambulance this year so far, with chest pain (32,000), breathing problems (25,000) and Covid-19 (23,000) calls second, third and fourth in the list respectively.

This Falls Awareness Week (20-26 September), the service has issued advice about not only how to prevent a fall but about what to do if you have fallen.

Charlotte Walker, the Trust’s Older People Improvement Lead, said: “Anyone can have a fall, but the natural ageing process means that older people are more likely to fall, especially if they have a long-term condition like heart disease, dementia or low blood pressure.

“Most falls do not result in serious injury, but there’s always a risk that a fall could lead to broken bones, which can cause the person to lose confidence, become withdrawn and feel as if they have lost their independence.

“It’s important for people to take preventative steps to avoid having a fall, but it’s also important to know what to do when a fall occurs.”

Preventing a fall

  • Have a sight test if you’re having problems with your vision, even if you already wear glasses
  • Request a home hazard assessment, where a healthcare professional visits your home to identify potential hazards and give advice
  • Do exercises to improve your strength and balance
  • Use non-slip mats in the bathroom
  • Mop up any spills to prevent wet, slippery floors
  • Ensure all rooms, passages and staircases are well lit
  • Remove clutter
  • Get help lifting or moving items that are heavy or difficult to lift

How to safely get up off the floor if you’re not injured

  • Lying on your back, bend one knee up towards you so your foot rests on the floor
  • Roll over onto your side, reaching your arms out in front
  • Pushing on your arms, try and sit up onto your side
  • Make sure you sit there for a few moments to allow any dizziness or light-headedness to pass
  • Spread your hands apart and try and roll over onto all fours
  • Look for the nearest sturdy piece of furniture and crawl towards it so you’re close enough to place two hands on it
  • Lift your stronger leg forwards to achieve a lunge position then push down through the arms and the legs to stand
  • Slowly turn around and sit down

How to stay safe while waiting for help after a fall

  • If you have fallen, try to remain calm
  • If you are unable to get up off the floor, it’s important to get help
  • If you have a ‘Lifeline’, press the button
  • Keep yourself warm while you wait for help – use nearby blankets or clothing to pull over yourself
  • Stay hydrated – try and leave water bottles dotted around your home if you fall regularly

The Trust has introduced a number of initiatives as part of a holistic approach to help fallers, from prevention to avoiding further harm caused by prolonged periods of time spent on the floor.

It includes a paramedic-physiotherapist collaboration to attend more complex falls, as well as partnerships with local health board and local council colleagues to develop ‘pathways’ which improve the patient’s care and experience.

The Trust has also worked with St John Ambulance Cymru to introduce Falls Assistants across Wales, whose role it is to help patients who have had a fall, but who are not injured or who only have a minor injury.

Community First Responders use lifting aids to help people who have fallen but are uninjured, and an education package is also being delivered to student paramedics to help them better understand why falls occur and how to seek assistance from wider health and social care teams to support people to remain at home.

In addition, colleagues in the Trust’s non-emergency patient transport service, which takes patients to and from their routine hospital appointments, have been trained to look out for potential falls hazards in a patient’s home and make referrals to the appropriate agencies, like Care and Repair.

Claire Roche, the Trust’s Executive Director of Quality and Nursing, said: “When someone has experienced a fall, it is really important that we are able to provide a suitable, timely response.

“This will ensure we can provide people with the appropriate assistance to safely get up from the floor.

“Improving our response to people who have fallen is one of our top priorities as an ambulance service, and we continue to work hard with our partners to achieve this.”