Falls prevention highlighted in April

7 Apr 2014 | Reducing Harm from Falls

Healthcare providers around New Zealand are raising awareness of the importance of falls prevention during the month-long April Falls promotion.

Falls are the leading cause of injuries to older people, yet many falls can be prevented by addressing underlying health conditions or problems with strength, balance or mobility.

April Falls celebrates the falls prevention activities underway and highlights the work that remains to be done.

Sandy Blake, Director of Nursing, and Clinical Lead for the Commission’s national programme to reduce harm from falls, says 90 percent of falls happen in the community.   

“Not only is the harm from falls devastating for the person who has fallen, and distressing for their families and whanau, but it often means the person has to have extra medical tests and treatment. People who have had falls may end up staying longer in hospital, or needing to go into a rest home,” she says.

“What works best is if health workers discuss falls risks with an older person with a view to developing a plan of action if needed.

“Risk assessments and care plans should be developed with older people and their family/whanau, and must address all the risks identified for each individual.”

Regional networks of district health boards will promote activities linked to three key themes – risk assessment, care planning and safe care environments.

The Northern region – with the Northern region’s patient safety campaign, First, Do No Harm – is concentrating on the safe and effective use of bedrails, while the Midlands region looks at safe footwear.

The Central region is focusing on a system to signal the level of assistance needed with mobility, and the South Island is working on keeping environments safe and uncluttered to prevent falls.

Key messages and guidance on early screening, risk assessment and care planning is available through the Ask assess, act resource being promoted through April Falls 2014.

Further information on April Falls and on the Commission’s national patient safety campaign, Open for better care, can be found at http://www.open.hqsc.govt.nz

 Falls – the facts and figures

  • The most serious injuries resulting from falls are fractures and head injuries, with hip fractures being the most common
  • Of those who suffer a hip fracture:
    • nearly 20 percent will die within a year
    • almost half will require long-term care
    • half will require help with daily living
  • A fall causing minor injury costs health services an estimated $600
  • The estimated cost of hip fracture resulting in a three-week stay in hospital is $47,000
  • The estimated cost of a hip fracture with complications requiring admission to an aged care facility is $135,000
  • Patient falls that result in harm are the most frequently reported adverse event in hospitals
  • There were 30,000 new accepted ACC claims for 2010-12 for falls in people aged over 65. Of these, 5000 claims were for fractured hips
  • Half of those who walked without help before fracturing a hip are no longer able to walk independently in the year following the fracture
  • There were 47,000 falls-related discharges in 2010-11, more than half of them involving people aged over 65. The cost to public hospitals was $205m

Last updated 07/04/2014