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Occupational therapists need to advise on improving strength to prevent falls

Tuesday 31st January 2017
How occupational therapists could help to reduce the number of falls suffered by older people in the UK. Image: jacoblund via iStock
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The College of Occupational Therapists (COT) is calling for primary care leaders to better integrate occupational therapists into their services, after a new report uncovered a significant lack of understanding about risk factors for falls among older people in the UK.

The Centre for Ageing Better conducted research that led to the discovery that 41 per cent of over-70s in Britain did not know good balance and strength were important for avoiding falls in old age.

As a result, healthcare authorities may need to work more closely with occupational therapists who can advise patients on the potential risk factors for falls, helping to adapt their homes in order to reduce this risk where necessary.

The research also found that almost one-third of over-65s in the UK will have a fall each year, leading to more than four million hospital admissions on average. Between 2014 and 2015, for example, figures show that 57,712 hip fractures were caused by falls in England alone.

Although 93 per cent of survey respondents recognised the importance of taking part in exercises to improve their strength and balance at least twice a week, 35 per cent didn't realise that activities such as gardening could contribute towards this, while 95 per cent wrongly believed that walking would increase their muscle strength.

With this in mind, occupational therapists may also be needed to play a key role in educating patients about the best types of physical activity for improving their strength and balance in an attempt to prevent future falls that could result in life-changing - and even life-threatening - injuries.

Karin Bishop, associate director of professional practice at the COT, stated: "Occupational therapists can play a key role in reducing the likelihood of people falling if our services are available to people proactively within primary care.

"That is why we are calling on leaders across the health and care system to take notice of th evidence which shows how having more occupational therapists on the front line of the NHS can deliver better quality, more proactive and person-centred care."

Written by Alex Franklin Stortford

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