EuroSafe’s vision is that falls, and the injuries they cause, should no longer be considered as an inevitable part of ageing. We want to improve understanding amongst professionals who work with older people that falls are preventable and to increase self-efficacy and action amongst these professionals to facilitate evidence-based fall prevention strategies, by enhancing their awareness and education concerning the prevention of falls.
There are many things that we can do, along with older people, to prevent falls, but these should be done with professional guidance to ensure they are suitable and to maximise their effectiveness and long term compliance.
What can be done?
There is considerable evidence that multimodal fall prevention programmes that target combinations of risk factors and that are tailored for selected risk groups are effective, and in community dwelling older adults, these interventions reduce fractures. Multi-modal interventions typically combine muscle strength and balance training (SBT) with assessment and management of medical risk factors, and education and advice on reducing risks in the home (e.g. by fitting rails and removing hazards). However, exercise regimes (both home and group-based) that solely focus on SBT can also lead to a significant drop in fall and injury rates. Exercise is also known to reduce the fear of falling in older people.
Although there are many successful interventions, take up and adherence to these interventions is often relatively poor. There are a number of reasons for this, including denial of the problem, disbelief that falls can be prevented or a lack of perceived relevance by older people. Qualitative research indicates that older people believe to a large extent that fall prevention information and measures are relevant to ‘other’ older people, who they consider are older and more frail and therefore at greater risk of falls, but not to themselves.
Therefore, for any intervention to be effective it is crucial that older people are being actively engaged in a way that appeals to them and has perceived relevance. The messages to be communicated should promote positive identities and values, such as quality of life, maintaining an independent lifestyle and staying healthy and physically active to remain engaged in society. These messages should promote activities that enhance muscle strength, general fitness, balance and mobility that would be enjoyable. Significant others, such as the family doctor, physiotherapist, informal carers, family and friends, play an influential role in recommending and supporting older people to engage in such activities. It is critical that these messages are evidence based and consistent, otherwise they generate more confusion and subsequently resistance to acceptance.
EuroSafe brings together relevant EU-level stakeholder organisations to increase awareness of falls and innovative prevention programmes in order to to ensure effective implementation and reach across the EU. These include professionals in health care and social services; service providers in the private and voluntary sectors; communities; informal carers; and older people themselves, through their representative organisations.
Currently, eighteen EU-level professional organisations have committed themselves to working closely with their members within countries in Europe by:
- Increasing the visibility of the impact of fall injuries amongst older people on their quality of life and societal expenditures;
- Advocating for long term programmes for promoting active lifestyles and fall prevention amongst older people;
- Supporting national and local members in the uptake of evidence based measures into their daily practice in serving older people ;
- Assisting in developing regular Fall Awareness Campaigns in countries and at European level.
EuroSafe’s fall prevention activities are supported by the European Commission and the thematic network ProFouND, which aims to promote implementation of best practice in fall prevention across Europe by using novel solutions. ProFouND also contributes to the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.