Psychological impact of falls on elderly

Fear of falling means 225,000 people aged over 75 won’t leave the house by themselves, according to older people’s charity WRVS

A report released by the charity today reveals how common falls are among the elderly

35 per cent have fallen in the last two years, with 32 per cent of those living alone suffering a fall in the last year

The impact often goes beyond the physical. Over one fifth (21%) of older people who had suffered a fall in the last five years have lost their confidence as a result, with 10% saying they are now less independent

This lack of confidence is often exacerbated during the winter months, as the majority of older people (52 per cent) say they feel much more vulnerable to falling in winter

The report highlights the devastating impact falls can have on the mental well-being of older people and how lack of confidence, as a result of falling or worrying about falling can lead to isolation and loneliness

Despite this, 38 per cent did not inform their doctor about their fall

WRVS is calling for older people worried about having a fall to contact the charity, which provides support services through its army of 40,000 volunteers

David McCullough, chief executive, WRVS, said: “These are bleak findings.  With winter approaching, older people have little confidence to get out and about because they fear they will fall and as this research shows, the psychological effects of worrying about a fall can be as debilitating and devastating as physical injuries. But there are solutions available; because we know that services such as those provided by our volunteers help older people live happy, healthy and independent lives.  We would urge anyone who isn’t feeling confident about going out to get in touch with us as we can arrange a volunteer to accompany them on trips to the shops or to social events or for volunteer-run transport services that will give them back their independence and quality of life.”

Today’s report among men and women over 75 also shows that:

  • 6 per cent of those who suffered a fall were unable to get up for an hour or more
  • 62% of those who had a fall suffered injury; 40% of these described their injuries as moderate or extensive
  • More than 1 in 20 (7%) think no-one would notice if they had a fall because they don’t see anyone for days
  • 23% say poor street conditions (poor lighting, poor pavements) make them feel less confident about leaving the house
  • These fears also increase with age – over one in five (21%) of those aged 75 – 79 are worried about suffering a fall, compared to over one in three (35%) aged over 85

The report highlights a worrying lack of support for those who have suffered a fall, as 76 per cent of those who suffered extensive injuries following a fall in the last five years, haven’t received a visit from a falls prevention team

David McCullough, chief executive, WRVS, said: “Falls can be prevented and it’s very important that those who have suffered a fall get the help they need to ensure it doesn’t happen again. If councils don’t have the financial resources to ensure visits are conducted by falls prevention teams, they should be signposting older people to organisations such as WRVS that can provide support services to help them regain their confidence.”

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