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Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds Hello. We’re joined by Chris Elliott this week, who’s an advanced occupational therapist. And we’re going to have a little chat about what that means, and how an occupational therapist can help people who have had a fall. So Chris. Occupational therapy. What on earth does that mean? OK. Well, occupational therapy’s all about finding practical solutions for people so that they can carry out their daily activities. For people with falls, that might be looking at how their environment is, what hazards there might be. Or it might even be about looking about fear of falls, and addressing some of those concerns that they might have.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds So if a community occupational therapist was going to visit someone in their home to think about things that they could do about falls, what can that person expect will happen when they visit? Well, it’s interesting, because often people get quite anxious about professionals coming into the home. But of course, occupational therapists are there to come into your home to work with you and look at what’s important to you and what activities you want to be able to do with as much independence as you can. So an occupational therapist might come to your home, and what they’re really interested in is looking at whether or not there’s any hazards coming in and out of your home.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 seconds Whether or not you might need some grab rails to assist you over doorsteps. They might be looking around you at your home and looking for trip hazards. So it might be rugs, or it might be thresholds across doorways. We might be interested in how you’re managing the stairs– how you’re managing to get up and down from your chair, how you’re managing to get in and out of your bath. Things like that. Some people are quite precious about their house, their home, and their environment, and they might not want to make any changes. Or they might want to make some changes, but not others. How does that work? That’s completely acceptable. And you’re right.

Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds People might not want a bog-standard rail putting in. But what we can do is advise that person or their family about what would be suitable. And they might want to not take that advice, and that’s OK. Or they might want to do something, and perhaps bring in their own personal joiner, someone that they’ve known for a long time. And that’s often what we find– especially with some of our more elderly patients, that they’ve got people that they trust. So we can advise them as what they need where, and then they can do that in their own time. OK.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 seconds So Chris, we know that occupational therapy is one of the best things that we can do to prevent falls in people’s homes. But what about falls that happen elsewhere? Can occupational therapy be involved elsewhere? Absolutely. And again, it’s about this tailored way that we look at people, and how we work with people and their families. So it might be that if we have somebody who spends a lot of time at a relative’s home, we could visit that environment as well and look at trips and hazards and making sure that walkways are clear. And it might be about educating the family as well as the people that we’re working with about general safety awareness and falls prevention.

Skip to 3 minutes and 33 seconds Because sometimes we know that people are falling in the street. So what we might do is look at interventions that work on frailty, look at general health and well-being, and about confidence when you’re out. So things like that. It doesn’t matter what the environment is. We’re happy to go and look at what’s important to that person– anything that we can do to prevent falls. OK. So Chris, an occupational therapist is a professional who comes into someone’s house. But what can people do for themselves– just really simple tips– without involving the professionals? Well, there are a couple of really key things that are important that people and their families can make sure that they’re on top of.

Skip to 4 minutes and 19 seconds One of those is to make sure that walkways are clear. Pick clutter up. Don’t put things on the stairs for storage even if it’s just to take up later. Make sure you’ve got good lighting. Make sure that you’ve got access to lighting through the night, so that you’re not making transfers from bed and things in the dark. But one of the key things is making sure that rugs are either removed, or that they’re taped down properly, because it’s one of the main things that people fall on. Thanks for joining us, Chris. You’re welcome. And thanks for watching.

Meet the expert: Dr Chris Elliott discusses occupational therapy

In our next meet the expert video we talk to Chris Elliott who is an advanced occupational therapist. Chris explains what an occupational therapist does and the type of things occupational therapists might look for if they visit your home.

  • Listen out for the practical tips she gives for things you can do in your home to reduce your risk of falls.
  • A fact sheet can be downloaded from below, which summarises how powerful occupational therapy is at preventing falls

If you didn’t get a chance to see how home hazards look to people with visual problems in Step 2.11, below is another link to an article in the New York Times with some very interesting video clips.

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Ageing Well: Why Older People Fall

Newcastle University

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