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Could this new scheme reduce care home falls?

Staff in residential care homes are aware that falls are responsible for placing a massive financial burden on the NHS. When older people fall, they are likely to experience broken bones and may require hip replacement surgery, both of which will require a lengthy period in hospital for recovery. But it’s not just the cost of broken bones and injuries to be taken into account: people in residential care homes who have experienced a fall often become frightened of a repeat occurrence, which leads to voluntary reduced mobility. Yet exercise is vitally important to keep bones healthy, so avoiding movement is the worst thing that they can do.

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Three-Year Research Project

Thanks to a new scheme developed by the University of Nottingham, a selection of care homes in West Yorkshire, East Anglia and the East Midlands are taking part in trials aimed at reducing the number of falls. Over a three-year period the project will assess whether the new guidelines have an impact on the number of falls suffered by residents, with a view to rolling out the scheme nationwide.

At an estimated cost of about £1.8m, the aim of the scheme is to explore whether the incidences of falls within care homes can be significantly reduced through the adoption of new staff guidelines. The study team has already conducted research into the scheme with the assistance of staff in care homes in Nottingham and Rushcliffe, determining a checklist of actions that, when implemented, ensure a reduction in the number of falls.

It is hoped that care home schemes such as this one will significantly reduce the number of falls experienced by residents across the UK once the trial has been completed and the data assessed.

How the New Scheme Works

Care home staff training for the new scheme will focus on a checklist of around 33 points aimed at raising awareness of the likelihood of falls. Some of the points include ensuring that residents are wearing appropriate spectacles so that they can see where they are going clearly. Staff and residents will be encouraged to spot trip hazards, and residents will be encouraged to drink sufficient fluids so that they are well hydrated. The aim is to take preventative action to decrease the overall number of falls, with staff undergoing personalised training sessions so that they understand fully the issues involved in preventing falls.

The study will involve over 1,300 residents from 66 care homes, which will be divided into two groups. Half of the homes will utilise the new checklist, whilst the other half will continue with the current method of logging falls and recording their severity, but without the aid of a falls-prevention programme.

At the end of the three-year trial period, the researchers will compare the numbers of falls within the two groups, with the expectation that those in the falls-prevention scheme will fare significantly better than those in the control group. If successful, the guidelines will be offered to all care homes in the UK, and they will be free to implement them if they so choose.

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