Risk of falls among older people a real concern

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing shows that the number of older Australians hospitalised after a fall continues to rise. Identifying older people in need of assessment and support to prevent falls is crucial for reducing this growing public health issue.

Falling in older age is common but it is not inevitable with strong evidence showing that falls can be prevented.

New research from The George Institute for Global Health shows that one quarter of older people who have a fall at home and need ambulance assistance, are not transported to a hospital emergency department; yet over half of these people will fall again within the next six months and many are likely to need ambulance assistance.

Dr Anne Tiedemann of The George Institute and the University of Sydney said the research shows this group of older people is frail, vulnerable and has a high prevalence of chronic health conditions.

"Ambulance service paramedics are ideally placed to play an important role in identifying older people at risk of falls, and guiding referrals to services that can reduce their risk of future falls and associated injury."

"This will improve their quality of life, reduce their risk of future falls and also reduce the workload of the ambulance service," Dr Tiedemann said. More than half of people in the study reported impaired mobility and rated their health as poor.

More than 70% of people reported having at least three falls in the past year. This research was published in the April issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

Research is currently underway to evaluate interventions for reducing falls in this vulnerable group of older people by The George Institute, Neuroscience Research Australia and the Ambulance Service of NSW.