Physios need to talk to patients more about fall risk factors

Thursday 2nd February 2017
NICE is calling on physios to take to their older patients more about the factors that could increase their risk of a fall. Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz via iStock
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Physiotherapists need to be more proactive in speaking to older patients about falls in order to prevent future accidents from occurring, according to a new report.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published an updated quality standard on preventing falls among the UK's elderly population, which calls for all healthcare professionals to talk to older people more about fall risks.

Statistics show that approximately 255,000 over-65s are hospitalised due to a fall each year, with around 30 per cent of people in this age category suffering such an accident at least once a year.

In a bid to prevent this figure from rising further, NICE wants physiotherapists, occupational therapists, GPs, community nurses and all other healthcare professionals to regularly ask older patients about recent falls and how steady they feel on their feet as part of routine check-ups.

Additionally, physios are being encouraged to monitor their patients for factors other than balance that could potentially increase their fall risk, such as the type of medication they are taking, their muscle strength, nutrition and whether they are showing any signs of osteoporosis.

If it becomes apparent that a patient is at risk of a potentially dangerous fall due to one or more of these factors, physios can then advise them on the best type of exercise to do that could improve their strength and lower their risk of suffering a serious injury as the result of a fall.

Professor Cameron Swift of King's College London, who is also a specialist committee member at NICE, commented: "We recognise that regular questions about falls may seem intrusive or repetitive, but older people often think episodes of falling or unsteadiness unimportant or that to raise them could threaten future independence."

Fellow specialist committee member Dr Victoria Welsh added: "This quality standard prioritises the need to identify those at risk of falls and assess and manage their associated factors so that we can prevent falls from happening in the first place."

Written by Mathew Horton

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