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Health Topics - Falls Prevention

Every year thousands of older people are admitted to hospital as a result of a fall or other injury. These injuries can be life changing and life threatening, with a tremendous loss of independence involved for some people. Injuries may range from cuts and grazes, to fractures, some injuries may be fatal.

Falls may be as a result of a simple trip, or loss of balance. External measures can be made around the home to reduce the chances of a fall, however, other factors such as muscle strength, balance, and medication may be contributing factors also.

Age Concern along with various health and injury prevention groups around the country are concerned about this. A variety of programmes have been instigated, and strategies introduced to assist people in increasing their health, well-being, and mobility and assist in reducing the possibility of a fall or other injury. For information on courses in your area visit our Falls Prevention Notice Board page

Strong evidence shows that regular physical activity is safe and reduces the risk of falls in older adults. Older adults at risk of falling should do exercises that maintain or improve their balance. For best results, they should do these exercises

  • at least 3 days a week and
  • using exercises from a program shown to reduce falls

Examples of balance exercises include:

  • Backward walking
  • Sideways walking
  • Heel walking
  • Toe walking
  • Standing from a sitting position

Tai Chi may also help prevent falls. For more information on Physical Activity visit our Physical Activity and Exercise page

INJURY PREVENTION INFORMATION


Live Stronger for Longer
Live stronger for longer is a new easy to navigate website, designed by older people for older people, with a focus n reducing the incidence and severity of falls and fractures. It captures the essence of positive ageing and celebrates independence. Take a look around.......

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ACC
The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) have a number of ideas, suggestions, information and statistics on their website regarding falls for older people.

Visit ACC on the web.

You can also access other information including driving for mature road users, back injury prevention, safety for children, OOS (Occupational Overuse Syndrome) prevention, and injury prevention for Maori and Pacific peoples.

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Decline in falls and broken hips a success story for New Zealand health care
The Health Quality & Safety Commission is celebrating the success of New Zealand public hospitals in reducing the number of in-hospital falls that result in a broken hip. New Zealand appears to be the first country to achieve this on a national scale.
A paper published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today highlights a sector-wide commitment to preventing harm and in reducing the number of falls resulting in serious harm in New Zealand.
This includes a 40 percent reduction in falls occurring in public hospitals which resulted in a broken hip since December 2014. The number of falls in our public hospitals leading to a hip fracture has fallen for six consecutive quarters. Full media release.
The NZMJ article is available to view here. Frances Healey’s editorial is available to view here.

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Focus on Falls is a quarterly publication for everyone interested in understanding and preventing falls in older people. Reducing harm from falls is the name and board aim of the national programme led by the Health Quality & Safety Commission, working in partnership with key organisations such as the ACC the Ministry of Health and district health boards (DHB's). For the latest copy go to the Health Quality & Safety Commission NZ website.

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Safety Flooring
Research has looked at how different flooring can be used to reduce injuries from falls. It looked at vinyl, carpet and newly invented Kradal™, a thin panel of composite polyurethane materials [5]. Kradal™ is designed to absorb energy on impact; to be soft when you fall onto it, yet firm for standing and walking.  For more information on the reach view a summary published in a recent IPNANZ UPDATE.

For more information on Kradal™ flooring visit their website www.kradal.co.nz

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National Health Committee
The National Health Committee has an extensive number of documents on a variety of health issues including falls in older people. to go directly to their site. Have a browse around while you are there. A vast array of interest articles are available for your perusal.

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Injury Prevention Research Unit
The Injury Prevention Research Unit, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, released in February 2007 the 10 Leading Causes of Injury Resulting in Hospitalisations - New Zealand 2000-2004. In all 12 age categories the number one cause for hospital admission are falls - the ages ranged from 0 to 85+ years of age. From 55 onwards the percentage of people admitted as a result of fall rises dramatically, as this list shows:

  • 55-64 years = 41.1%
  • 65-74years = 59.1%
  • 75-84 years = 76.6%
  • 85+ years = 87.3%

The data source was the New Zealand Health Information Service Public Hospital Morbidity Data 2000. The date includes all discharges from public hospitals with a primary diagnosis of injury, and excludes readmissions for prior injury, stays of less than 1day, those discharged dead and adverse effects due to drugs or medical procedures.

You can view their website at www.otago.ac.nz/ipru.

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Preventing falls at home - a pdf from Amercia that has a useful checklist for preventing falls in your home

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Tai Chi: Self Defence Against Falls - for people aged 65 and over
Every day Leita, age 82, practises Tai Chi. Each week she attends modified Tai Chi classes specifically aimed at fall prevention. Why?

Because she wants to improve her balance, to avoid falling again.

Discovering Tai Chi for over 65’s was a turning point in Leita's life. She was recovering from a horrifying experience, when she stumbled while carrying two bags of groceries. She was unable to regain her balance and landed with her face flat against the kerb, badly cutting her mouth, smashing her dentures and experiencing shock in addition to numerous bruises.

Falls are the leading cause of hospitalisation for people aged 65 and over, especially women. Between 30 and 50 percent of older adults fall each year, with the proportion increasing with age.

However since going to Tai Chi, Leita has never looked back. Modified Tai Chi is an ideal exercise for older people due to the gentle, rhythmic movements that improve co-ordination and balance. By building lower limb muscle strength and balance, modified Tai Chi reduces the incidence and severity of falls.

Tai Chi movements also improve flexibility. There is a strong focus on connecting your feet to the earth by building a strong foundation through correct posture and alignment.

Other benefits from practising modified Tai Chi daily are improved breathing and better blood circulation which gives rise to an increased feeling of wellbeing.

If you are 65 or over and want to avoid falls, then modified Tai Chi may be for you.

To check out Tai Chi Fall Prevention classes classes on the North Shore go to our Calendar of Activities [PDF 144 kb).

For more information on Fall Prevention classes in your area visit our Falls Prevention Notice Board Page

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