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Are falls really that dangerous? An Interview with Dr James Frith

Ahead of the course Ageing Well: Falls, Dr James Frith, Lead Educator, answers a few key questions that usually get asked about falls.

Ahead of the course Ageing Well: Falls, Dr James Frith, Lead Educator, answers a few key questions that usually get asked about falls.

Dr James Frith FutureLearn Ageing Well: Falls
Dr James Frith

Are falls really that dangerous?

James: Yes. Falls are hugely common and as we get older our bodies are less robust and are more likely to be injured during a fall. Serious injuries include broken bones and head injuries or serious bleeding. A broken hip can be devastating for some people. But for some people the loss of confidence following a fall can be just as disabling as a physical injury. Fortunately we can reduce the risk of falling and the associated injuries.

What is the most common story you hear from your patients?

James: Falls are complex and are rarely caused by a single factor. in each person who falls there are a mix of factors which contribute, so there is not really a typical type of fall.  However, common things which I come across are:

  • Falling on the bus as people get up from their seats before it has stopped.
  • Putting out the bins in wet or windy weather.
  • Getting up too quickly to answer the telephone or the door.
  • Slipping in the bath or shower.

What can increase a person’s risk of falls?

James: Researchers have identified hundreds of risk factors for falls, so we tend to stick to the ones that we can do something about. The main risks are having a poor gait or balance, poor eyesight, dizziness, some medications, and hazards in the home or on the street, but there are many more.

What can a person do to reduce the risk of falls?

James: Sometimes it can come down to common sense, such as keeping stairs free from clutter, turning on the lights and reporting dizziness to the doctor. But there are other simple ways too, such as keeping the legs active and strong through gentle exercise, having a medication review with a doctor or pharmacist, avoiding dehydration and having walking sticks measured by a professional.

What is the best way to recover from a fall?

James: If someone is prone to falls they should consider wearing a call alarm or keeping a mobile phone in their pocket, just in case they need to call for help. Some people can learn techniques to help them stand following a fall – usually from a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. In the longer term anyone who has fallen or is at risk of falls should seek help from a health professional to try to prevent future falls. Sometimes falls can be due to medical conditions which can easily be treated.

Want to learn more about falls, to help yourself or your friends and family? Join Ageing Well: Falls now.

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