People over 60 who feel at risk of falling are being encouraged to see their GP as the pandemic has led to an increase in falls in the older generation.

Following months of cancelled activities and social distancing measures, older people who became less active during the pandemic have become more at risk of falling, as their muscles are weaker and their balance less reliable.

The Falls Prevention team at Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust work hard to reduce the number and severity of falls across the district through a range of support measures. They are asking anyone who feels worried about falling to speak to their GP and ask to be referred to them.

Julie (left) and Susie (right) exercising with resistance bands

Julie (left) and Susie (right) exercising with resistance bands

Local resident Susie Griffiths received support from the Falls Prevention team for six months last year. She had fallen several times, but one fall in particular left her in a lot of pain. She said: “The fall I had in the bathroom was unpleasant; I was in a lot of pain when walking and getting out of the chair. Within a couple of weeks of my GP referring me to the Falls Prevention team, Stephen came to see me at home.

“We set some goals to be able to walk further and do more around the house. After assessing me, Stephen showed me some exercises to do with a resistance band that would help me build up my strength and balance. The exercises were well explained, and the booklet that came with them was easy to follow.

“He then visited me monthly to go through the exercises and motivate me to do them. He also phoned a few times to see how I was getting on. This really supported me to keep going. Although six months seems a long time, I can see now how long it takes to improve leg strength and balance, so I’m glad I kept at it.”

Susie’s daughter, Julie, has been a great support while the Falls team have been working with her. Susie explained: “Every time Julie comes round, she does the exercises with me. It’s been really important to have her supporting me.

“It’s been a good experience and I have seen improvements over the programme. I can get out of the chair more easily and my legs feel much stronger. I can turn and pick my feet up better. I am also more aware of risks, keeping safe, wearing my falls pendant, and wearing the correct footwear.”

Julie has also noticed a difference in her Mum. She said: “I think she’s more aware on steps and walking now, and tries to prevent falls. I remind her all the time about falls and keeping safe, like making sure she is always wearing her safe and sound alarm. All these things reduce the risk of her falling again, like she did in the bathroom.

“The exercises we were shown have become part of our routine. I’ve not only seen a difference in my mum, but also myself as I’ve done the exercises with her each time.”

Physical Activity Co-ordinator, Stephen Pugh said: “We have seen an increase in falls since the pandemic and the various lockdowns occurred. This is because people have stayed inside and are doing less exercise, weakening their muscles and leaving their balance unsteady. We are therefore encouraging anyone who feels like they might be more at risk of falls, or has already fallen, to see their GP or health professional to get referred to us.

“We offer a falls assessment in your own home as well as a falls prevention exercise service. This is a six-month long home visiting programme with monthly visits during which we will work on strengthening exercises together.

“We would like to support everyone at risk of falling in our community by building up people’s strength, balance and confidence. It’s been a pleasure to help Susie and I’ve seen a real difference in how comfortable and able she is to get around safely.

The Falls Prevention webpage provides more information about their services, as well as useful resources to support people across Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven in reducing their chances of falling including videos and top tips.