Most falls happen in the community, with falls in the home causing more injuries to New Zealanders than road accidents and workplace injuries combined.
Overall, around 30 percent of community-dwelling people aged 65 and over will fall at least once a year, mostly without serious injury. About five percent of these people will have a fracture or will require hospitalisation related to their fall.
Falls and injury rates rise with age and these figures double for community-dwelling people aged 75 and over.
‘Normal aging inevitably brings physical, cognitive and affective changes that may contribute to the risk of falls, including sensory, musculoskeletal, neurological, and metabolic changes. Gender is also a key factor as women fall more often than men and sustain more injuries when they fall.’ (Kronfol N. 2007. Biological, Medical and Behaviour Risk Factors on Falls. World Health Organisation.)
Considering this, as part of the 2014 April Falls campaign, a safety checks within the home competition for those aged over 65 was run by Tairawhiti District Health.
The goals of this competition were:
This proved to be a successful promotion. A wide variety of organisations supported the competition, including a general practice up the East Coast, two iwi providers, an NGO and two businesses.
One of the NGOs for older persons received numerous requests from participants on how to make their home safer. The NGO was proactive and purchased white paint for its client group to paint their steps.
Safety checks within the home evaluation identified that 98 people aged over 65 participated in the competition, with good representation from rural areas. The majority of participants were aged 65–69, which was positive, showing that awareness was created at a younger age.
The largest falls prevention risk identified were steps not having a line of white paint to identify their edges. Next was the absence of non-slip mats, followed by electrical cords being a trip hazard:
Studies have found older community-dwelling people to be ‘unrealistically optimistic’ about falling, with a majority (88 percent) believing falls are a potential problem for their age group, but only a minority (37 percent) believing this risk applies to them personally.
Often the consumer with the least resources to achieve minimal home safety becomes the high-cost health care consumer. Therefore it was determined this awareness campaign/competition had a positive effect in the Tairawhiti community.