The development of strength and balance classes in Torridge is helping to boost the health, wellbeing and confidence of patients who suffer from falls or are afraid of falling.
Falls account for over half of hospital admissions for accidental injury, and about a third of people aged over 65 will suffer at least one fall each year.
People in North Devon are benefitting from weekly strength and balance classes in Holsworthy and Torrington as well as Barnstaple, Bideford, Ilfracombe, Lynton and South Molton.
The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust says patient feedback has been overwhelmingly positive since the classes were first introduced three years ago.
The results of a 12-month audit, released this week, show that 87% of patients felt their balance had improved while 83% reported an increase in confidence as a result of taking part in the classes.
Some of the best results were seen at the Trust’s newest service in Holsworthy and Torrington.
The local classes are specifically for patients who have fallen or are afraid of falling, with most referrals coming from inpatient and outpatient therapists or GPs.
The 12-week programme of exercises helps to prevent falls, while the Trust’s therapy teams also give advice on how best to manage them when they do happen.
Suzanne Seymour, physiotherapist, said: “Patients have described feeling a lack of confidence when they start the programme but then report that this steadily rises.
“People say they become able to do activities like walking outside, shopping and meeting friends and family, which they had not felt confident to do previously.”
Patients support each other during the classes and discuss how they are managing, or any problems they are experiencing.
Suzanne added: “They get the benefit of being in an environment with other people who have similar concerns or fears about falling.
“The patients encourage each other and they enjoy the social aspect of the class.”
John Kilby, who has suffered four falls in the last 18 months and attended A&E each time, has just finished his series of 12 classes.
John said: “I feel stronger and balance-wise I’m better. I find the wobble board really helps. Everyone enjoys the class and it has certainly done me good.”
The Trust held a series of events to tie in with Age UK’s Falls Awareness Week in June, which highlighted the importance of keeping your feet healthy in order to maintain mobility and independence.
Members of the Holsworthy and Torrington therapy team put on a display while the Trust’s podiatry specialists gave presentations about foot care and footwear to patients in some of the strength and balance classes.
COMMENTS FROM HOLSWORTHY AND TORRINGTON USERS
- “I was very nervous and unsure on my first visit but feel I have made considerable improvement. The small number attending provided a friendly atmosphere and we all appeared to spur each other on. The exercises have helped to strengthen my muscles, which has further increased my confidence.”
- “This class has improved my life beyond belief. It has given me back my confidence, made me physically fitter and helped with my social life. I had given up walking any distance because of falling. I now walk better and have better balance and no fear of falling. I could not walk upstairs but now walk up and down with confidence. I had been unable to drive but am now driving again.”
- “The whole course was extremely helpful and enjoyable. The standard of teaching and the approach was exactly right.”
FACTS ABOUT FALLS
- About one third of people over 65 will fall in a year, rising to about half of all those aged 80 and over.
- 75% of falls are not reported.
- Falls destroy confidence, increase isolation and reduce independence, with 9% of older people who fall becoming afraid to leave their homes in case they fall again.
- Falls represent over half of hospital admissions for accidental injury.
- Every year in England, more than 223,000 people over 60 have a fracture as a result of a fall. This is more than the entire population of Northampton (find an equivalent local town).
- Each year, fractures in patients aged 60 and over account for more than 1.5 million hospital bed days in the UK.