STEADY does it

10 March 2016

More than 30 per cent of adults over 65 will have one fall each year. Not only can it knock  people’s confidence but many will need to go to hospital. Our falls services across Kent are working hard to get people steady on their feet again, as Fay Sinclair reports.

When octogenarian Irene Barker first went along to a session designed to help older people at risk of falling she felt a little apprehensive.

The 88-year-old from Cuxton has double vision in one eye and was struggling to get about after a number of falls. After several weeks though, Irene could not wait to go to the falls rehabilitation  group in Coxheath, Maidstone.

She said: “You know that everyone else here has had a fall too so you don’t feel alone. This is really helping to
re-build my confidence.’’

The two year geriatrician-led Falls Prevention project, run by Kent Community Health NHS Trust, was funded by West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group. The aim is to cut the number of people being admitted to hospital, reduce injuries and build people’s confidence – something that suffers enormously if you have had a fall. Patients are referred by GPs or consultants. There is also a Falls Prevention Service in east Kent too.

Modern Matron Debbie Marsh said: “One of the fears that a lot of older people have is that they are afraid they will fall over so they stay static, which can be worse for them. Our work will help keep them out of hospital.’’

What the sessions involve Before they get under way with the 10-week programme Team Leader and Occupational Therapist Sylvia Holder and her three colleagues Physiotherapist Ben Muvhuti and Therapy Assistants Sarah Vigar and Jackie Brooks discuss each patient – determining their progress and what extra support is needed.

Sylvia said: “Although it is a group session with set activities, every person has a plan that is tailored to them.’’

Each session usually includes a postural stability exercise group, which includes strengthening and balancing exercises, as well as gym equipment to strengthen particular muscle groups. There is also falls prevention advice and one-to-one sessions at home for those who prefer not to work in groups.

Occupational therapists will also assess people’s homes and give advice on home hazards and provide adaptations.
Debbie said: “We can see when people are holding on to furniture to walk and help them with equipment that makes it easier for them to be mobile and not to fall.

“We want to help people to stay on their two feet and do the things that they love doing. A lot of it is about attitude, staff sit with patients and ask what they think so they take ownership of what they are doing. People often think falling over is inevitable as you get older but it doesn’t have to be.’’