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  • National campaign needed to reduce falls

    Author: AAP

A national approach and more resources are needed to reduce falls, in much the same way as the campaign to cut road deaths, an expert says.

One in three older Australians fall each year, with hospital admissions more than doubling those for traffic accidents. 

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And the risk of a fall for those with dementia is even higher, probably double that of those without the condition, says Professor Keith Hill from Curtin University.

He's called for a national approach and substantially more resources to go into preventing falls, similar to those allocated for preventing road accidents.

Prof Hill was speaking to AAP on Monday after delivering a keynote speech at the 9th national Dementia Research and Knowledge Translation Forum in Sydney.

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"Falls are the most common form of injury in Australia, 10 per cent cause serious injuries and there are two-and-a-half more hospitalisations due to falls than motor vehicle accidents," he said.

"There is an enormous amount of resources that have gone into preventing motor vehicle accidents, in terms of policy planning, policing, mass media, rehabilitation.
"But in falls prevention, we don't have that concerted effort.

"Unless we can do that, hospitalisations due to falls are going up two per cent a year, which is going to put a massive demand on our health system in future years unless we can turn it around."

While dementia adds another risk factor for falls, people with the condition could benefit from modified interventions found to be effective for reducing falls for other older people.
"Probably the other important thing coming out of the research is exercise.

"If we can get people with dementia in the early stages to undertake a particular exercise that includes balance training, that can reduce their risk."

STEPS TO CUT FALLS
* medication reviews - psychoactive drugs or being on four or more drugs can increase the risk
* getting cataracts removed or changing from multifocal glasses to two sets of glasses
* engaging in exercise programs, including tai chi
* improving lighting, getting rid of slippery surfaces or other household dangers
* using a walking stick instead of stopping outdoor walks
* taking supplements if vitamin D deficient.

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