politics

Elderly Brits to suffer 250,000 more falls a year after lockdowns hit muscle strength


Government modelling buried in the social care White Paper suggests 14,000 more people could end up in hospital every year, and the issue will cost the NHS and care an extra £210m

Elderly Brits could suffer more falls after Covid lockdowns wasted their muscles
Elderly Brits could suffer more falls after Covid lockdowns wasted their muscles

Frail and elderly Brits are set to suffer 250,000 more falls per year after their muscles wasted in Covid lockdowns.

Government modelling predicts 110,000 more older people are projected to have at least one more fall per year – a rise of 3.9%.

In total falls could rise by 124,000 in men and 130,000 in women per year, costing the health and social care system £210m.

The modelling was published in August by Public Health England and given prominence in this week’s social care White Paper.

It is “plausible” that 30,000 of the extra falls will lead to a 999 ambulance call, as ‘deconditioning’ hits people’s strength and balance.







Elderly people are expected to have more falls per year since lockdown
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

Some 14,000 would lead to patients having to stay in hospital and 12,000 would be moved to a care home.

The study found older people spent just 77 minutes per week on activity to help strength and balance during the first lockdown.

That was down from 126 minutes a week in the same period in 2019.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said: “Falls are always a major hazard for older people.

“But the pandemic is likely to have made the problem worse because being generally less physically active will have accelerated the process of muscles weakening, which is something most of us face as we age.”

The long-awaited White Paper – slammed by critics for not going far or fast enough – pledged £50m a year for technology such as acoustic sensors that alert staff to falls and other problems.

It warned deconditioning also led to depression, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The White Paper pledged £1m year for a “deconditioning inequality innovation fund”, helping councils targeting those at highest risk.







Boris Johnson’s long-awaited social care plan was met with disappointment
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PA)

It said: “Despite the lifting of restrictions, there is evidence that levels of physical activity have remained low throughout 2021, meaning that many people are likely in need of additional support.

“We are committed to taking action to support the older adult population by finding innovative ways to increase strength and balance activity amongst those who have been most affected by deconditioning.

“In particular, people who shielded, people living with multimorbidity, people living with dementia, people living in social care settings, and people from more deprived backgrounds.”

Ms Abrahams said: “It’s good to see that the NHS and the Government recognise this and are committed to supporting older people to stay safe at home with quicker response times for installing handrails and the like.

“These things don’t cost very much but can be literally life saving, so investing in them makes a lot of sense.”

“From time to time nationally funded falls prevention programmes have been rolled out across localities, and these can be a big help too.

“These have tended to fade away with budget cuts, and now would be a good time to bring them back again. Initiatives like these have been shown to improve older people’s strength and balance, attributes that go a long way to protecting them from falls.”

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