Simple goals such as being able to rise from a chair, take a shower or walk the dog mean a great deal to many frail and older people.

As we age there can be a reduction in physical strength and balance. This alone can increase the risk of falls but when accompanied by other factors, such as failing eyesight, medication effects, or poor footwear, the risk of a fall increases dramatically.

Falls are a leading cause of injury among older people and are a common cause of hospital admissions and a loss of independence.

Falls Ruby2There are a lot of factors to consider when addressing falls risks, and any solution requires strong relationships between GPs, practice nurses, allied health clinicians, needs assessors, St John and home-based support agencies.

The Health In Home Falls Prevention programme is a partnership between Nelson Marlborough Health and ACC and is offered to people who live at home.

Nelson Physiotherapy Team Leader Deidre Crichton says the programme puts proactive falls prevention strategies in place and links people with the appropriate falls prevention services.

Physiotherapist and Clinical Co-ordinator Kate West visits people at home to assess their strength and balance, and to rectify any falls hazards in their home. She then prescribes an individualised exercise programme.

“My focus is to listen to the person and understand what they want to achieve with the programme,” Kate says.

“For some this could be confidence with everyday activities at home. For others, it could be taking their wife out for a coffee.”

From here, an allied health assistant continues the programme— six months of home visits and phone calls to help the person establish a regular exercise routine.

The success of the programme can be measured by the reduction in falls that require emergency treatment or someone’s move into a residential care facility, but it’s the feedback from patients and their whānau that Kate feels really measures success.

“When I hear a person is now able to leave the house because they are not so afraid of falling, or if they can get out of a chair by themselves, it is those stories that mean a lot to the team,” Kate says.

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The Living fully and free of falls in the Nelson Marlborough community project won the Healthy Communities category in the 2020 Health Innovation Awards.