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Hidden trip hazards: waking up to the dangers of falling at home

Last week I tripped and fell. I was carrying bags, and just caught my foot on a step. I went flying, bashed my knee, ripped my jeans and grazed my hand. I was amazed at how shaken I was, at how long it took me to feel ok afterwards. It made me realise just how scary falling at home is for older people. Only the week before, my mum tripped on an uneven paving stone in town and fell. She was scooped up by lots of lovely passers by, and luckily she got someone to call me before paramedics had decided to take her to A&E, ‘just to be on the safe side.’ But she was cut, bruised and really shaken. She clearly felt unwell for a couple of days afterwards, as well as very self-conscious about how she looked.

Mum and Dad live not far from me, so I was able to keep an eye on Mum, do their shopping, make sure they were eating properly, until she felt able to go out again on her own. But it did make me stop and think about the potentially serious consequences of elderly people falling over. There are all the obvious ones – broken wrists which result in inability to wash, dress, cook, shop, drive; broken hips which can end up being fatal, as elderly people with broken hips can spend ages immobile, with a greatly increased risk of dangerous chest infections. But even if you have less serious injuries, like my mum, you need someone to take care of you afterwards, to make sure you are still eating and drinking properly – and to take care of anyone else who you normally look after (my mum is my father’s main carer, so he might end up having to go into a care home or hospital if something serious happened to her). Its easy to see why the NHS takes falls seriously and even runs Falls Clinics to help elderly people avoid all these risks. Of course you do then have to take their advice! Mum went to a Falls Clinic a while back. She was given a walking stick and told she must use it. She passes it on her way out of the front door every day. After her last fall she said she would definitely use it from now on. It is still as dusty as it was 3 weeks ago.

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