As the late Sir Terry Pratchett put it: “We live and learn, or perhaps more importantly we learn and live.”
What a terrifically important shift of perspective for our current time and the challenges we face. In my project management experience one of the most important tools I use, and something integral to Roar’s operational culture, is our lessons log.
This has been particularly useful for three annually-occurring event types – the Christmas parties, the summer outings and the tea dances – because every year (despite risk assessments) something to be “absolutely avoided in future” happens, so we build safe systems into all of our re-planning.
In our private life, everyday safety norms evolve over time (introduction of helmets, seatbelts and LED tealights to our homes and activities). I wanted to write this blog because I believe we need to very quickly catch up with some transformational changes that are now in my lessons log, and I don’t want to wait for other people to have to learn them for themselves.
While more than 100 days of lockdown has saved untold numbers from COVID-19, it has presented other risks and challenges. In addition to the numerous injurious falls that have beset our more frail service users, as well as the loneliness and anxiety experienced across so many households, we have also become aware of some life-changing injuries which are occurring as a result of accidents exacerbated by the lockdown. We need to learn quickly about these hazards and communicate them as widely as we can.
One of the reasons house fires have risen over this period could be related to people with visual impairment not having the support or routines they relied on.
One lady was grateful that her community meals were still being delivered but, since she now ate at midday when she received it, she was very hungry again by evening. Although an assessment had resulted in the application of stickers on her cooker and around her kitchen, these had been rubbed off by an overzealous cleaner some time ago and she was unable to see the dials. She was also unable to read the cooking instructions, and no longer had people coming in to help. When the cooker started belching smoke, she was unable to remove the food safely and sustained burns to her arms. Fortunately, her smoke alarm was operational and her neighbour raised the alarm.
Another reality is that during lockdown, unless consciously undertaking exercises to maintain strength and balance, the majority of people over 65, and particularly over 80, will have undergone some deconditioning. In addition to making sure older people have checked their hands, legs, neck, concentration, eyes etc, another aspect we need to raise awareness of is feet.
One of our men had been self-isolating as advised, and during this time he had kept relatively busy and motivated. He had, however, spent almost three months wearing slippers and hadn’t had his toenails trimmed. His usual outdoor shoes were uncomfortable when he put them on, so he opted for his dress shoes which were roomier. It was wet out, and while on a drive he applied the breaks; his smooth sole slipped away from the pedal and his muscle memory didn’t allow a quick recovery. He hit the car in front. The cars came off worst on this occasion, but think what could have been the result.
An injurious fall can be the event that devastates an older person’s ability to live independently. Face masks/ coverings have the unintended consequence of causing older people to fall and we need to find ways to minimise this.
Every day we are hearing new incidents of slips and trips, and the common theme is uneven surfaces. The most common are stepping up or down from a bus, tripping where there is a lip of a door or a kerb, tree roots, and paving stones.
We also know this can be compounded by specs steaming up.
There is no quick fix, but we urge awareness raising on how practising strength and balance exercises at home can hugely reduce the incidence and severity of a stumble or fall.
We can’t prevent all accidents, but we can share information that equips people with better understanding that they can add to their own lessons log.
Nicola Hanssen, chief executive, Roar - Connections for Life
Roar – Connections for Life is a charity and social enterprise based in Paisley, Scotland. Its social mission is to reduce loneliness and social isolation in older age. Its approach recognises that if we can keep older people mobile, they have much greater opportunities to remain connected. It chairs the Renfrewshire Community Falls Prevention Group, which connects the work of community safety organisations with health and social care, recognising that unintentional harm prevention needs to start in the social and environmental realm of people’s lives.
Posted: 7/22/2020 4:01:06 PM