Dame Kate Harcourt supports April Falls 2014 themes

9 Apr 2014 | Reducing Harm from Falls

9 April 2014

Dame Kate Harcourt supports April Falls 2014 themes

Dame Kate Harcourt knows first-hand the impact a fall can have, and is telling her story as April Falls month gets under way. She supports the idea that preventing falls is everyone’s business.

The acclaimed New Zealand actress, 86, had a fall at home last year that left her unconscious, with a broken nose and wrist.

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.

Dame Kate says the worst thing about the fall was being unable to drive for six weeks. Her family did her grocery shopping, but she wasn’t able to go to the library – she reads five books a week – or attend a regular Monday lunch with friends. She also had to cancel a voiceover job.

People can help prevent falls at home by making their environment as safe as possible. Some steps to consider include removing or securing loose mats, keeping hallways and pathways uncluttered (especially to and from the bathroom), having good lighting and wearing well-fitting shoes.

The Health Quality & Safety Commission is supporting district health boards and other healthcare providers in raising awareness of falls prevention through the month-long national April Falls promotion.

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. Many people who fall need hospital treatment.

“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.”

Key messages and guidance around 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 can be found here, and more information on the Commission’s national patient safety campaign, Open for better care, can be found here.

For more information, including pictures of Dame Kate Harcourt, contact Linley Boniface on 027 948 1700.

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 09/04/2014