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Red Flag

Warning signs

We heard in week one from James and Julia in the ‘meet the experts’ video that some people are reluctant to seek help following a fall.

But there are several situations when it is recommended that people do seek help:

  • Having a fall increases the risk of having another fall. It is recognised that all people who have fallen should have an assessment by a falls specialist.

  • Anyone who feels that they have a problem with their gait or balance should consider seeking an assessment from a falls specialist.

  • If you identified yourself as having any of the falls risk factors in Week 2 of this course it would be worth seeing a falls specialist to reduce your risk of falling.

  • Having a fear of falling can increase the risk of falls and reduce quality of life. Treatment should be sought for this.

There are also some other specific warning signs which we need to look out for.

We call these red flags.

Sometimes falls can be caused by an underlying medical problem. Sometimes these underlying problems are chronic and require longer term treatments. An example would be a fall related to stiffness and pain from an arthritic knee joint.

Other falls can be due to more pressing underlying medical problems which require investigation and treatment more promptly. Below we will learn the warning signs to look out for so that we know when we need to seek medical help more urgently:

  • If you just drop down, without warning and for no obvious reason - whether you blackout or not.

  • If you feel dizzy or faint before falling.

  • If you blackout, lose consciousness or faint. Especially if this occurs during activity (such as walking) or while sitting or while lying down.

  • If there is any suspicion that the arms or legs were jerking, like in a seizure.

  • If you were unable to put your hands/arms out to protect yourself during the fall. This typically results in injuries to the face and head.

  • If there was any shortness of breath, chest pain or fluttery feelings in the chest (palpitations) around the time of the fall.

  • If there is any confusion, disorientation and speaking difficulty that persists longer than a minute after the fall.

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This article is from the free online course:

Ageing Well: Why Older People Fall

Newcastle University

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