As we get older, there is a good chance that we will become less steady on our feet or suffer some physical or visual impairment which makes us more prone to falling over. The resultant injuries from such falls are also likely to be more severe.
According to guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, anyone aged 65 who presents for medical attention because of a fall, or reports recurrent falls in the past year, or demonstrates abnormalities of gait or balance should be offered a multifactorial falls risk assessment by their healthcare provider.
This is an assessment that aims to identify a person’s risk factors for falling. It should be performed by a healthcare professional with appropriate skills and experience, normally in the setting of a specialist falls service.
As well as the identification of a person’s falls history, a cardiovascular examination and a medication review, a multifactorial assessment may include the assessment of:
- gait, balance, mobility, and muscle weakness;
- osteoporosis risk;
- the perceived functional ability and fear relating to falling;
- visual impairment;
- cognitive impairment and neurological examination;
- urinary incontinence; and
- home hazards.
Older people with recurrent falls or assessed as being at increased risk of falling should then be considered for an individualised multifactorial intervention. This could include:
- A muscle-strengthening and balance training programme – this will mostly benefit older people living in the community with a history of recurrent falls or balance and gait deficit.
- Home hazard assessment and intervention – normally carried out as part of the discharge plan of older people who have received treatment in hospital following a fall, this would involve healthcare professionals assessing and minimising possible hazards present in the patient’s home.
- Vision assessment – this should include a referral if any potential sight problems are identified.
- Medication review – older people on psychotropic medications should have their medication reviewed and discontinued, if possible, to reduce their risk of falling.
- Cardiac pacing – this should be considered for older people with cardioinhibitory carotid sinus hypersensitivity who have experienced unexplained falls.
Healthcare professionals involved in the assessment and prevention of falls should discuss what changes a person is willing to make to their day-to-day lives to prevent future falls.
In a hospital setting, health care professionals have a duty to carry out a risk assessment for any vulnerable patients that are admitted into their care who may be at risk of falling due to their age or medical condition.
If a falls risk assessment is not carried out, or is carried out but suitable provisions designed to reduce the risks identified are not implemented, and the vulnerable patient falls and injures themself as a result, it may be possible to bring a claim for compensation.
If you want to make a compensation claim for injuries sustained in a fall due to the failure to carry out a falls risk assessment, it is prudent to consult a specialist personal injury lawyer before you launch your case.
They will be able to quickly let you know if you have a valid claim and, if you have, help you gather the evidence you need, such as medical reports and witness statements, to strengthen your case.
They will refer you to a medical expert who will assess the causes of your injuries and how they have affected your life and will fight hard to win you the compensation you deserve through an out of court settlement or be at your side if your case has to go to court.
For a confidential discussion and advice on compensation for any medical negligence matter, contact us today for a free initial consultation with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors on 01245 253214 or email [email protected]
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.