With health and social care services and their partners working to address the challenge of an ageing population and rising demands on public services, falls among older people are a major and growing concern. An economic evaluation published in 2013 estimated that the annual cost to health and social care services in Scotland of managing the consequences of falls was in excess of £470 million. This is set to rise over the next decade as our population ages and the proportion with multimorbidity, frailty and polypharmacy grows. Less easy to quantify is the impact of falls on a person's independence and quality of life, and the repercussions for family and friends. The risk associated with not taking action to reduce falls is significant.
A fall is a symptom, not a diagnosis. It can be a marker for the onset of frailty, the first indication of a new or worsening health problem and/or can represent a tipping point in a person's life, triggering a downward decline in independence. Falls are commonly associated with frailty, but it is not only frail people who fall.
However, falls are not an inevitable consequence of old age. Many falls and fractures can be prevented by well organised services and organisations working in partnership with the person and their carers. Falls prevention and management is not the preserve of one profession, service or organisation. The consequences of a fall cut across all agencies working with older people, and with support to understand their contribution, all agencies can be part of the solution.
Effective falls prevention and management can make a significant contribution to achieving the proposed National Outcomes for Integration, specifically, supporting people to look after and improve their own health and wellbeing, live in good health for longer, live independently at home and maintain or improve the quality of their lives.
Email: Susan Malcolm