31 January 2017

Preventing falls in older people through conversation

NICE has advised health and care professionals to talk to older people about falls.

NICE says routine appointments with family doctors, at hospital, or during home visits by social care workers, can prevent falls, disability and loss of independence.

Although most falls do not result in serious injury, statistics show that around 255,000 older people are admitted to hospital in England each year due to falls.

An updated quality standard sets out best practice for health and social care professionals in preventing falls. It calls for people aged 65 and over to be regularly asked questions about whether they have fallen over in the last year or feel unsteady on their feet.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE, said: “We know that prevention is better than cure when it comes to falls, particularly in older people. 

“Asking older people about falls on a regular basis will identify those who are most at risk. Through this simple intervention, those people can then be referred to the right health care professional or service to stop them falling in the future.”

Older people are at a high risk of falling, where around 30% of 65 and overs will fall at least once a year. 

Professor Cameron Swift, Emeritus Professor from King’s College London School of Medicine and specialist committee member, said: “We recognise that regular questions about falls may seem intrusive or repetitive, but older people often think episodes of falling or unsteadiness unimportant, or that to raise them could threaten future independence.” 

If an older person is deemed to be at risk, the updated quality standard says they should be referred to the appropriate service and be given a comprehensive assessment and management plan to address their risks of falling.

Prof Swift added: “By contrast, effective measures are now known to reduce the risk of falls, maintain independence and promote ongoing health. It’s vital, therefore, that these are offered to those who need them.” 

Dr Victoria Welsh, GP and specialist committee member, said: “This quality standard prioritises the need to identify those at risk of falls, and assess and manage their associated factors so that we can prevent falls from happening in the first place.”

We know that prevention is better than cure when it comes to falls, particularly in older people.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive at NICE

This quality standard prioritises the need to identify those at risk of falls, and assess and manage their associated factors so that we can prevent falls from happening in the first place.

Dr Victoria Welsh, GP and specialist committee member