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East Lancashire adopts hi tech solution to prevent falls in older people

27th March 2018

The STEADY On! Team at East Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s has turned to state of the art ‘wearable technology’ to predict and prevent falls among the local elderly population.

Specifically chosen by the NHS Innovation Agency and Lancashire County Council to pilot this new technology, using QTUG™ (Quantative Timed Up and Go) the Community Falls Team based at Pendle Community Hospital are quickly and easily able to screen people for gait and mobility impairment, and identify those at risk.

Wearing hi-tech sensor pads below both knees, walking just a few steps allows the QTUG™ technology to quickly tell whether a person has a low, medium or high risk of falling.

“Falls are the most common cause of injury and hospital admission, and often happen as a result of a decline in health and fitness as we get older,” says STEADY On! Practitioner, Cathy Bolton.

“We’re now using QTUG™ as it helps to prevent falls by accurately assessing a person’s mobility and balance, it helps people when offered appropriate activities to improve or maintain muscle strength to keep track of their own improvements over a period of time ’

QTUG™ can identify specific gait and mobility problems by comparing a person’s mobility (e.g. standing, walking, turning) against average values for age and gender. The results are then displayed on a tablet device and colour coded to highlight gait and mobility problems.

Falls in older adults are a major problem in East Lancashire and worldwide, with an estimated 30 per cent of adults over 65 years of age fall each year.

“People who fall often develop a condition known as “fear of falling”, which can result in a reduction in the normal levels of physical activity,” advised STEADY On! Practitioner, Diane Lloyd.

“This leads to declining health and physical fitness which can in turn increase an older person’s risk of falling.

“In addition to the fear of falling, other psychological issues can present themselves, such as social isolation, loneliness and depression.”

Yvonne Skellern-Foster, Fall Team Partnership Lead at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Across the UK, every 15 seconds, an older adult is seen in an Emergency Department for a fall-related injury. Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for those aged 65 and over. Moreover, the chances of falling and of being seriously injured in a fall can increase with age.”

The fall prevention project, ‘STEADY On!’ was launched at Nelson House, Burnley by the Trust’s Community Falls Team on 12th March 2013 with members of the community, partner agencies and other NHS colleagues in attendance.

The ‘STEADY On!’ approach is a unique falls prevention tool developed in partnership with UCLAN and a ‘play-on’ the local colloquial term used by some older people – ‘I think to myself, steady on or I must keep steady’.

The STEADY phrase is also a memorable acronym incorporating the key risk factors for falls in older people:

Slippers, feet & footwear

Tablets & medication

Environment & lighting

Activity & exercise

Do you fall?

eYesight & vision

Yvonne added: “The falls prevention sessions will be run within the local community at chosen sites across Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley.

“We want to help our older population live safely and to help them reduce their own risk of falls and injuries whilst improving their wellbeing and quality of life.”

For information about the fall prevention sessions, please call the Falls Team on 01282 804903.

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