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Wednesday, 14 June, 2000, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
1,000 die from stair falls
Elderly
Thousands of elderly people fall in the home every year
More than 1,000 people die every year after falling down stairs, new figures reveal.

Stairs are the place where most deaths and serious injuries happen in the home.

Elderly people are most at risk of hurting themselves on stairs and more than 100,000 are treated for injuries every year. Of these, more than half end up in hospital with serious injuries.

Studies suggest that impaired vision, reduced strength and poor balance puts many elderly people at particular risk.

The figures were released to coincide with a new Government campaign to improve safety in the home.

The Department of Trade and Industry and Health Promotion England are backing the campaign which aims to highlight risks and save lives.

Many accidents are caused as a result of people leaving objects on stairs or carrying difficult objects up and down stairs.

Research

Research carried out by Loughborough University found that one-third of households left objects on stairs.

One-in-three said they recognised the dangers of carrying difficult objects up and down stairs but still said they would take the risk.



It is a tragedy that a simple fall down stairs can take the lives of over 1,000 people every year

Hilary Carter, Help the Aged

Researchers added that poor lighting and carpet patterns can increase the risk of people falling down stairs.

The most common injury from falling down stairs is a broken hip.

Estimates suggest that treating hip fractures costs the NHS in the region of 1bn each year and takes up one-in-five hospital beds.

One third of elderly people who fracture their hip die and just one-in-three return to their previous fitness level.

But the researchers also found that falls can have "serious psychological consequences".

"In addition to any physical injury, falls can also have serious psychological and social consequences, affecting confidence, mobility and general well-being," they said.

They predicted falls will become an increasing problem in the UK.

"Unfortunately, falls are likely to become an increasing problem, with the changing age profile of the population."

Advice

The Government campaign advises people to take care on the stairs by holding handrails and by not trying to carry too much up stairs at any one time.

It suggests that stairs should be well lit and clear of clutter and loose rugs at the top of stairs should be fixed down.

As part of the campaign, thousands of resource packs and leaflets are being distributed to health professionals, carers and to elderly people themselves.

This will be backed by a national television advertising campaign.

Help the Aged welcomed the campaign. Its spokeswoman Hilary Carter said it was a tragedy that so many lives are lost as a result of falls.

"It is a tragedy that a simple fall down stairs can take the lives of over 1,000 people every year and seriously injure thousands others.

"A fall down stairs can take away in a second older people's health and independence, so it is vital that simple precautions are taken to prevent such falls."

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