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Specialist role introduced to help reduce impact of falls

Eleri standing next to a lake

As an occupational therapist, one of Eleri D’Arcy’s passions has always been striving to prevent the number of falls that occur in day to day life.

Whether it’s offering advice around making changes at home or providing support if someone has suffered a fall, her role has centred on reducing the risks and potential impacts associated with falling.

“Occupational therapists tend to look at falls holistically; considering the physical and cognitive challenges a person may face, the environment, levels of activity, understanding of risks and their personal preferences and goals,” Eleri, pictured, said.

“We look at how people can remain independent and active, doing the things they want to do, while still being aware of the risks around falls.

“Doing activities that are important to us as individuals on a day to day basis does bring an element of risk, however, if we completely took that risk away we would be impacting someone’s quality of life.

“With a background in occupational therapy, I’m interested in how people function on a day to day basis and how they manage that ever-present risk.”

Having gained experience in a variety of settings, including general elderly care, mental health units, learning disabilities, hospitals and in the community, Eleri has now taken on the role of falls quality improvement lead in Swansea Bay.

The role, which is a new addition to the health board, means she can now focus all of her attention on working with staff to enhance falls prevention services and educating patients about the support available to them.

She added: “My interest in falls has come from a long history of working in various clinical settings.

“It’s really given me an insight into how falls can impact a person’s life.”

Eleri standing outside a hospital building

Not only will Eleri be working with frontline staff to develop new initiatives around preventing falls, part of her role will see her monitoring patient data to better understand where more support is needed.

“My job is to firstly encourage and welcome innovation,” she said. “Often it’s those on the frontline, who work with patients every day, as well as the service users themselves, who have the best ideas.

“These specialist roles are pivotal at being able to drive innovation. They help build momentum and resilience in services so it’s a fantastic step forward for Swansea Bay.

“My role will benefit patients by putting mechanisms in place where their voices are heard, supporting the development of clear pathways so there is easier access to falls services, and supporting the education of staff so they are better equipped to prevent and manage falls.

“Sometimes we’re at a loss at what to do if a loved one has a fall and the go to response is ‘call an ambulance’ and ‘go to ED’. It’s important to provide education so people can access the correct and safe advice which means they don’t necessarily need to go into hospital.

“We want to make sure we’re empowering service users, whether they’re at home or in the community, so they feel confident to know how to manage a fall and also what to do following a fall in terms of accessing the right support.”

The role of the falls quality improvement lead has been introduced after falls prevention was identified as one of five priority areas that make a real difference to the lives of patients, families and staff.

Alongside falls prevention, end of life care, healthcare acquired infection, sepsis and suicide prevention have been named as the four remaining quality and safety priorities this year.

Work is already taking place to address each priority and will continue across Swansea Bay so that positive improvements can be made going forward.

Eleri said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that the health board has recognised falls prevention as a quality priority.

“Falls are a leading contributor to serious injury and death for older people in particular.

“The functional impact of a fall is huge. As well as the physical, mental and emotional harm that can be caused to the person themselves, there is also considerable impact to family, friends, carers and staff.

“If we can prevents falls from happening in the first place then we can positively affect healthcare in general. Getting in early and stopping that fall from happening, where possible, will have a far reaching positive economic, social and health effect for everyone involved.

“Ultimately, if a fall does happen we want to reduce its impact. We want that person to receive the best treatment quickly and safely; to get the relevant and effective aftercare, rehabilitation and support in a timely way. That way the effect of that fall is reduced and isn’t something that person has to live with for the rest of their lives.”

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