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Protect yourself and others against falls this winter

04 December 2017

South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) is offering advice to help people guard against suffering a fall this winter.

Ambulance crews attended more than 63,000 calls to low-level falls in 2016 and so far this year has attended more than 40,000 such calls.

These figures make up close to 20% of all calls it attended – more than any other type of call. Older people are particularly vulnerable with 80% of these patients over the age of 65.

When a patient suffers a fall, ambulance crews can refer patient to specialist falls services. However, by undertaking some simple checks and alterations, people can lower their chances of suffering a fall and requiring the help of the ambulance service.

SECAmb falls lead and specialist paramedic Vicky Kypta said: “We know that falls significantly impact on people’s quality of life beyond the fact they may need our assistance and potentially further treatment in hospital. After a fall an older person has around a 50 per cent chance of having their mobility seriously impaired and sadly a 10 per cent chance of dying within a year. Falls can also damage people’s confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence.

“Our crews are working hard to ensure patients receive additional help by referring them to specialist services and we’re pleased to have seen evidence of an increase in referrals since crews have been able to do this more efficiently electronically from the scene.

“But we want to help people lower their chances of having to call 999 in the first place. By following some simple advice, perhaps with the help of family or friends, such as checking homes for slip and trip hazards, a person’s chance of suffering a fall can be significantly reduced.”

Keeping an eye out for potential hazards can make your homes safer. Although some of these points below may seem obvious, it's easy to overlook them.

Ask yourself these questions: (Source Age UK)

• Do you have good lighting, especially on the stairs?
• Are stairs and steps clutter free?
• Do you have handrails on both sides of the stairs?
• Do you have a nightlight in the bedroom or a torch by the bed in case you need to get up in the night?
• Are your floors clear of trailing wires, wrinkled or fraying carpets or anything else that you might trip or slip on?
• Do you have a handrail in the bath and a non-slip bath mat?
• Do you always use a step ladder to reach high places? Always ask someone to help you if you’re using a ladder, never stand on a chair.
• Do you keep your garden paths clear and free from moss?
• Does your pet wear a collar with a bell? It’s important to be aware of where they are when you’re moving about.

Further advice on falls prevention is available via the following links.

SECAmb has also produced a winter check list to help everyone this winter.

SECAmb winter check list

• Check your home medicines cabinet – is everything in date? Restock with essentials including cold remedies, pain killers, indigestion tablets and diarrhoea and constipation remedies
• Keep up-to-date with any repeat prescriptions you or your family or friend need.
• If you or someone you look after is in an at-risk group don’t forget to book a flu vaccination
• Look out for any vulnerable friends and neighbours – what could you do to help them? Are there any hazards in their homes? Do their slippers need replacing? We attend falls to older and vulnerable people all year round
• Wear appropriate shoes when outside especially during icy weather. We typically see an increase to slips and trips during colder spells
• When was the last time your vehicle was serviced? If your car is safer, so are you
• Carry some useful items in your vehicle such as a blanket and a spade for colder and possible snowy weather
• Wear bright colours at night. Can you be clearly seen as a pedestrian or cyclist? If walking at dusk or at night use a torch
• Heat homes to at least 18C (65F). You might prefer your main living room to be slightly warmer
• Keep your bedroom window closed on winter nights – breathing cold air can be bad for your health as it increases the risk of chest infections. If outside in the cold, cover your nose and mouth – especially if you have a long-term health condition which might be exacerbated by the cold air
• Keep active when you're indoors. Try not to sit still for more than an hour or so
• Wear several layers of light clothes. They trap warm air better than one bulky layer
• 999 should only be dialled in the event of a life-threatening or serious emergency
• People who are not facing a serious emergency should make alternative arrangements such as dialling NHS 111 or seeking alternative advice from a GP or pharmacist so we can focus on those who need us most.

For further information on how to protect yourself and others this winter please click on the following link:

When to call 999:

If you think a patient is suffering from one of the following you must dial 999 for an ambulance:
• heart attack (e.g. chest pain for more than 15 minutes)
• sudden unexplained shortness of breath
• heavy bleeding
• unconsciousness (even if the patient has regained consciousness)
• traumatic back/spinal/neck pain

You should also call for an ambulance if: 
• you think the patient's illness or injury is life-threatening
• you think the illness or injury may become worse, or even life-threatening on the way to the hospital
• moving the patient/s without skilled people could cause further injury
• the patient needs the skills or equipment of the ambulance service and its personnel

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