More than a quarter of older people in our community fail to disclose a fall at home to the people closest to them. It’s said to be for a number of reasons: from a study of 2,000 people aged 65+, 26% believe they can handle their own care, 16% struggle with being labelled as ‘helpless’ or ‘vulnerable’ and 18% simply struggle with the idea of getting older*.
This is just the tip of the iceberg… the study reported 29% of our older peers had hidden care needs of some description from their families. Not only that, but 39% actually admitted they would even hide their feelings and worries. Their reasoning? Most reported not wanting to ‘burden’ their families with the worry of changing needs, both mental and physical.
What’s the impact of this secrecy?
Not only are our already-vulnerable older loved ones potentially causing themselves long-term health issues by keeping secrets relating their care, but this also has a knock-on effect to the NHS. According to the Public Health Outcomes Framework, there are more than 22,000 emergency hospital admissions per year as a direct cause of falls for people over 65. A government report also revealed that the estimated cost of fragility fractures following ‘lower force’ falls is up to £4.4 billion every year.
So, how can we help to alleviate this?
There are a range of steps you can take to support your loved ones’ mental and physical wellbeing:
Gently encourage them to discuss their health concerns and any issues they face – including falls – so they receive the right support and falls can be prevented
Find things that your mother, father, grandparent or older relative can do to feel productive, valued and to alleviate those negative feelings associated with aging
Reassure them that they are not a burden and find ways to have fun when you spend time together
Be proactive and observant. Keep an eye on any changes in behaviour or mobility, any twinges of pain or signs that an injury may have occurred. If your loved one is supported by care staff, keep an open dialogue with them so you can compare your thoughts and consider the best way forward
Jim Patience, CEO of Anthropos who commissioned the study said: “Considering there are 11 million people aged 65+, the research really brings home just how widespread these issues are. If we extrapolated these numbers across the whole of the UK, it could indicate that every year around 2.6 million people fall, with 686,000 people not telling anyone about it.
“It fits into the wider pattern we’ve found that so many older people are hiding care concerns. We hope adults of all ages consider how these findings may support gentle, sensitive conversations with the older people in their lives about all care matters, from falls to forgetfulness.”
20% of people admitted that, although they tried to keep it a secret, their family and friends had realised what was happening. Out of this group, 83% said they felt relieved, as though a weight had been lifted, after telling loved ones their secret and gaining support. This goes to show that, while the older generation want to appear stoic and deny the aging process, the support of their loved ones is still vitally important to ensure feelings of safety and security in their lives.
If you’re concerned about any behaviour or physical difficulties you’ve noticed in your older family members, get in touch with us to discuss the options and how we can help.
*Study commissioned by the connected care provider, Anthropos.