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Elderly likely to keep falls a secret

Elderly likely to keep falls a secret

Many older adults are not reporting falls to a health professional, a new survey suggests.

Of the 1,000 adults surveyed by the GrownUps website, more than half said they would be unlikely to report a fall if it resulted in a minor injury. If the fall didn't result in an injury then the number jumped to more than 80%.

Physiotherapy New Zealand President Ian d'Young says that falls, despite being the most common cause of injury in NZ, are often preventable.

"People who fall may not tell their doctor, or even their spouse. They might be afraid of losing their independence or appearing frail."

"Having one fall greatly increases your chances of having another, so if you've had a fall in the past it's essential that you talk to someone."

ACC estimates that those over 65 have a one in three chance of falling each year. Falls sustained by those over 65 cost ACC more than $140 million in the last financial year.

Mr d'Young says research shows that many of the risk factors surrounding falls are modifiable; including problems with balance, gait and muscle weakness.

"Physiotherapy can improve your strength and balance, educate you about risk factors and provide important information on how to get up safely if you do have a fall."

The survey also revealed:
Almost half thought that falls were just a natural part of ageing.
One in five were exercising less than once a week
79% had never been assessed for risk of falling

Mr d’Young said staying active is one of the best things people can do to help reduce their chance of falling. He added that the myth of falling being a ‘natural part of ageing’ is unhelpful as it encourages acceptance rather than a focus on prevention.

Physiotherapy New Zealand encourages anyone who is afraid of falling, or who has fallen in the past to seek advice on how to reduce their future risks.

Are you at risk of falling?
Have you had a fall in the last year?
Are you taking more than four medications a day?
Do you have Parkinson's disease or history of a stroke?
Do you feel you have any balance problems?
Are you able to stand up from a chair without using your arms for support?
Are you limiting what you do due to fear of falling?
If you answered YES to three or more of the above questions then you are at risk of falling and could benefit from the help of a physiotherapist or other health professional.
(Adapted from the Falls Risk Assessment Tool, Nandy et al, 2004.)

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