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  1. Published on: 12/03/2019 07:45 AMReported by: rogerblaxall
    Report: Trish Ireland

    At the recent meeting of the West Lancashire and Southport Breathe Easy Group, our speaker was Nicola Hodgkinson of the S.W. Lancashire Falls Prevention Team at Virgin Care.

    This turned out an excellent, interactive meeting!

    Nicola began by outlining the referral criteria for the Falls Prevention Service for those aged 65 years and over: patients or a family member can refer themselves, or can be referred by a G.P. or other health professional. The contact number is 0300-247-0011. (Please note that for Falls Prevention in Sefton, the number to phone 01704-443344).

    She explained that the risks of falling are higher as we age, but these risks can be modified. Our circulation and joints are older, as also our hearing and sight. One way of remaining steady as we age is to increase the amount ofExercise we do, for exercise slows the decline in our muscle strength, bone health and our balance.

    There are many resources available - online, NHS exercise programmes, information from Arthritis Care and Age UK and so on. However, one can also ask for specialist help and one-to-one assessment from the
    Falls Team. Our muscles weaken 8% per decade from the age of 30, but exercise can reduce this decline to 4% per decade.

    Balance and keeping steady is also much affected by the interaction between our brain and our eyes and ears, so after the age of 65, it really is important to have an annual eyesight check. Varifocal and bifocal spectacles can affect our depth vision, that is, how far we believe something to be away from us, so if we wish to reduce falls risks as much as possible, then it may be better not to wear that form of spectacles! Hearing should also be tested as we get older.

    Another factor affecting balance, and thus implicated in causing falls, ismedication; it is considered that one is "at extra risk" of falls if taking 4 or more types of tablets each day. For instance, some make one drowsy, whereas others may cause blood pressure to fall too low. It is also very important to ask your GP or pharmacist about possible drug interactions.

    Alcohol is a big risk factor, particularly in combination with previously mentioned factors, because alcohol impacts on the cerebellum , the part of the brain affecting co-ordination; literally, alcohol can prevent a person walking in a straight line, so an obvious falls factor is there. Moreover, more than three drinks per day makes bones more brittle and hence more at risk of Osteoporosis. This is a factor in falls and in causing fractures. Exercise and a good diet, including Vitamin D, and plenty of sunshine will help here, though people at particular risk may need specialist medication and help.

    As we age, our feet can cause problems. These are vital for keeping us steady, yet as we age, the arches of the feet tend to flatten, and the feet may become more mis-shapen and arthritic. Soft tissues may also have become stretched. Regular visits to an NHS Podiatrist is recommended. Stockinged feet are dangerous and Nicola advised against the use of slipper socks. Her advice was to wear proper well-fitting slippers, and as for shoes, she advised low-heeled, well-fitted and properly fastened shoes using laces or Velcro.

    Last but not least, Nicola advised that the home environment should be checked, especially to avoid trip hazards, such as loose rugs, and the raised lips of French doors, trailing wires and poor lighting. Pets can also cause trips, so a collar bell is a very good idea! Walking sticks are useful, but it is important to check that the rubber end is in good condition and if your walking aid has brakes, then they should be checked and may need repair.

    One of our members told Nicola that she had experienced a number of falls, resulting each time in fractures, and with hindsight she realised these happened when she was breathless and tired. Nicola replied that yes, fatigue is a major risk factor and so it is really important to pace our activities, especially for those with respiratory problems, having a rest when necessary and not forcing oneself to carry on. Best rule is to establish a safe routine; avoid dehydration and have a plan, just in case; a neck pendant or special wrist attachment, so that if the worst happens we can call for help.

    Thank you, Nicola Hodgkinson, for an excellent and informative talk, much appreciated by all present!

    Our next public meeting will be held on Monday March 18th, when Dr. Clare Finnegan of Queenscourt Hospicewill be coming to speak to us. New members and visitors, including family members and carers will be made very welcome. We meet at the Guide HQ in Green Lane, Ormskirk, L39 1ND, next door to Ormskirk Rugby Club where there is ample free parking. Doors open at 10.30 a.m. and the meeting will begin at 11 a.m., finishing about 12.30 -12.45 pm. Any enquiries, please ring Trish on 07528702203.


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