Reducing the number of falls among the elderly: Research report
Summary of findings
- Falls are the principle cause of accidental death and injury in Doncaster, accounting for 33% of deaths (1992-2001) and 53% of admissions for serious injury (1998-2002).
- Postcode sectors with a significantly high Standardised Admission Ratios (SARs) for fractured neck of femur are DN1 2, DN3 3, DN6 8, DN9 3, S64 9, DN5 0, DN11 8, DN7 5, DN7 5, DN7 4.
- The risk of admission to hospital as a result of a fall increases significantly as people get older, with an admission rate of over 10% for those over 80.
- Women are at greater risk of incurring serious injury as a result of a fall due to osteoporosis.
- Falls are considered to be an inevitable part of growing old. The consequences of falling, in terms of physical and mental well-being, were well-known and there is a strong fear of having a fall.
- Advice and information on how to prevent falls would be widely welcomed, although many people said they would be reluctant to ask for specific advice until they had had a fall or a ‘near fall’. They also said they would be unwilling to call a helpline for advice preferring to talk to an organisation such as Age Concern.
- A wide range of communication routes should be used to reach the target audience including radio, TV and press; discussion groups; and printed materials. Printed materials should be distributed in non-health settings such as community centres, supermarkets, post offices, bingo halls.
- All older people in contact with healthcare professionals should be asked routinely whether they have fallen in the past year and considered for their ability to benefit from interventions to improve strength and balance. Risk assessment should be offered as part of an individualised, multifactorial intervention.
- All those aged 65 and over should be encouraged to seek a falls risk assessment from their GP if they consider themselves to be at risk.
- Advice about preventing falls should be widely available in the community.
Marketing and communications
- To increase awareness amongst those aged 65 and over of the actions they can take to prevent a fall and to encourage those who consider themselves at risk to get an assessment.
- To increase awareness amongst those aged 55 to 64 of the actions they can take to stay healthy, and reduce the risk of falling, as they get older.
- To raise awareness amongst those looking after elderly people of the actions that can be taken to prevent falls.
- To inform older people and their carers about where to go for advice about falls prevention.
- All those aged 65 and over. Priority should be given to women and those living in postcode areas DN1 2, DN3 3, DN6 8, DN9 3, S64 9, DN5 0, DN11 8, DN7 5, DN7 5, DN7 4.
- All those aged between 55 and 64 should be targeted with healthy ageing advice that includes falls prevention messages.
- Those looking after elderly people, in particular care home managers.
(Further recommendations are then presented in terms of marketing messages, branding and communications routes.)
The objective of the quantitative analysis was to identify and profile key target audiences in Doncaster who are at most risk of falling.
The objectives of the focus groups were to explore:
- General attitudes towards health, healthy living and getting older.
- The attitudes to falling in old age and the impact of a fall.
- People’s experience of falls within the past 12 months.
- Awareness of information and advice on staying active and healthy.
- Responses to four different creative routes developed for a campaign to raise awareness of the issue of falls and how they can be prevented.
- Doncaster PCT commissioned research to gain insights into six public health issues and to develop social marketing strategies aimed at achieving long term solutions.
- This report focuses on the issue of reducing the number of falls in the elderly.
- Falls represent the most frequent and serious type of accident in the over-65s, with one older person dying every five hours as a result of a fall. About 30% of older people living in the community fall each year, rising to approximately 50% for those aged 85 and over. Falls are twice as common in women as men in those aged over 74. Among those aged 65 to 74, 54% of falls occur in the home. This figure rises to 65% for those aged 75 and over.
- Falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence and are a huge cost to society. With an ageing population, these costs are only set to rise. However, falls are not an inevitable part of ageing and there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of falling in the elderly.
Research to explore the issue of reducing the number of falls in the elderly, and to make initial recommendations for a social marketing strategy.
63 to 100
- Analysis of several national data sets to identify key target populations who are most likely to fall. Data sets included Mosaic™, Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) and data from Doncaster PCT.
- Qualitative research with men and women aged 63 to 100 years old in Doncaster. Specifically:
- A group based in the Age Concern Day Centre in Sandalwood. 18 people took part in an open group discussion. The ages of the participants ranged from 63 to 100 and all but one were female.
- A group based at the Maytime Social Club in Rossington. 15 people were involved in the session and ages ranged from 65 to 85 years old. There were six men and nine women. Three different approaches were adopted:
- A round table discussion with eight participants
- An in-depth discussion with two participants
- A group meeting involving all the attendees
- The falls service provided by the PCT was reviewed and face-to-face and telephone interviews were conducted with senior staff. Desk-based research on ‘best practice’ in the management of falls was also conducted.
Data collection methodology
- 33 elderly people took part in the group discussions.
- The number of face-to-face and telephone interviews with senior staff was not specified.