Remember, remember: Falls are not just for September!

06 September 2023

Dr Alasdair Macrae is  a Consultant Geriatrician and Secretary of the BGS Falls and Bones Special Interest Group (SIG).

"These Streets”, by Paolo Nutini (a local hero), played on shuffle while on a recent flight home. His song mentions how the air smells much greener on his return home, and there was a fantastic freshness experienced as I disembarked. It was a stark contrast to the stifling 40C heat that I had departed. As I continue my journey home, I notice deciduous leaves beginning to turn, as another Paolo song, “Autumn Leaves”, comes on.
Autumn - or Fall, if you prefer - is often a time that people dread, with decreasing daylight and cooler days. I, on the other hand, look forward to it. The year’s apples, plums and brambles are ready to be picked and made into wonderfully comforting crumbles.
Another thing that I look forward to each Autumn is the BGS International Conference on Falls and Postural Stability. I really enjoy being able to meet and learn from people that are passionate about reducing falls (and the harm that can arise from them). This year’s event is being held at Newcastle’s Catalyst on 29 September, the Friday after Falls Awareness week (18-22 September). Take a look at the programme and register here.
Every year, during Falls Awareness Week, people around the world who are eager to reduce the risk of others falling, work hard to convince healthcare professionals and the general public that falling is not an inevitable part of ageing. Over the years, our local Falls Awareness Week has benefitted from many wonderful people who have devoted time to assist us. These include university professors, charity representatives, allied health professionals, doctors, specialist nurses and even one of our local opticians. It is quite remarkable who is keen to help when you reach out to them. Of course, a special mention has to go to our magnificent Falls Prevention specialist nurse, Shona, whose enthusiasm is infectious.

If you are thinking of organising a Falls Awareness Week event, here are my 5 tips for success:

  1. Simple, short and snappy messages/interactions work best, with a sprinkling of fun.

  2. Even better, give people something for free - like wipes to clean spectacles, or make walking aids winter-ready by replacing worn ferrules with new ones.

  3. Pitch a stall in a high traffic area, without being in the way.

  4. Don’t just stand behind the stall - use the stall as a base and mingle with passers-by.

  5. Consider taking your message to people, e.g. educational quizzes for ward staff - it is amazing how competitive people become, especially if there is a box of chocolates to be won!

If you have not yet arranged anything for Falls Awareness Week, it is possible to do something simple and effective for 2023, even if it is just in your ward or department. You could have a different message each day for the ward staff at the morning handover/safety brief, eg. making sure patients have their call bell next to them, or ensuring patients have appropriate footwear. Every little helps!
Also, look out for the soon-to-be published National Audit of Inpatient Falls report of Inpatient Falls and Fractures, which should provide some tasty ideas for quality improvement projects.
Now I am left to ponder whether I should have custard or ice-cream with my dessert, “while these autumn leaves float around everywhere”.


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