The Falls Team?

Share information, support and advice on all aspects of caring.
Hello Everyone,

My 92 year old sister has had several falls over the last year. Recently, she had two falls over three days. On each occasion she has been unhurt apart from the upset of having fallen. The problem is that she is unable to get up. Her legs are weak and obviously with age her muscles, including her arm muscles have lost their strength. She gets very annoyed that she can't get up. She has an emergency call button round her neck.

After her first two or three falls, she pressed her 'call button' and the operator sent for the emergency services. On the first occasion, the ambulance took five hours to reach her. She didn't want me to be called, but after five hours the operator did ring me. This was 3.30am. My son and I went round and after checking that she wasn't hurt, simply helped her up. (Cancelled the ambulance.) We stayed with her - made her a cup of tea - and I helped her to bed. She was fine.

On another occasion the paramedics took three hours to reach her after a fall. Then they took an hour to take all details - whether she was dizzy - how had she fallen - and some of her medical history. Again, she was fine. Unhurt, but simply unable to get up. She had still been on the floor for hours.

This is quite understandable, as falls in the elderly, are obviously not treated as priority unless there is obvious pain or other symptoms. The fact remains that an elderly person can be left on the floor for hours, possibly in some mental distress. The paramedics have many other serious cases to deal with.

I was told by the Social Worker, that we should not attempt to get my sister up, as we may injure ourselves. We should always leave it to the paramedics. In spite of this, after the last few falls, my husband and I have gone to my sister and helped her up into a chair. Always, of course, checking that she is not in pain or dizzy. It's so much quicker and saves the ambulance being called out. However my husband and I are both in our eighties and not so strong as we were.

I have been thinking. Lots of elderly people have falls and are simply unable to get up. Would it be possible for each area to have a 'falls team'? Possibly two or more strong people, properly trained,(and I stress trained) both to assess a situation after an elderly person has fallen and then act upon it? An ordinary car could be used, saving a full ambulance with team and it would be quicker all round. If there was physical damage or possible dizzy turns then the conventional ambulance could be summoned. The main objective would be to get the elderly person back on his or her feet - see that they are ok - possibly make them a cup of tea and then leave.

I guess there will be lots of objections to this suggestion and I am aware of the health and safety issues here but it does seem unnecessary for a full ambulance and team to go to someone who in most cases, simply needs helping up from the floor and being assessed that they are not hurt.

Locally we have a team of trained medical volunteers who, at any ambulance request, go out to the patient and give immediate first aid and if necessary use a defribulator (spelling?) and are usually on the scene well before the paramedics. They use an ordinary car. They, as far as I know, are not trained to help someone up from the floor. They have certainly never attended my sister, even though it was a paramedics call.

What do other carers think? Is there a place for a 'falls team'?

I apologise for the lengthy post.
Ring the ambulance service Quality Control Officer and ask why your mum is such a low priority. In my area, the ambulance staff have always been prompt and polite when my mum had a fall. They have always reached mum before me (I live 6 miles away). The Rapid Response paramedic was called once, but the full ambulance arrived soon after.
I too have had a rapid response from the ambulance service on the few occasions my Mum has fallen, or slid off her chair. They do take a long time to fill in all the forms but that has a good side in that they remain to see that the person doesn't suffer any obvious consequences from the fall and they do take blood pressure and SATs too.
However it does sound like a good idea if your area is overly busy with other calls as surely an elderly person shouldn't be left alone on the floor. I suppose there is a danger of a partially trained team moving someone who should not be moved. Hard one to answer without medical training.
I've called out Paramedics a number of times over the last few years when Dad has fallen. He's also used his lifeline button and they have called the ambulance in my absence. I would always rather phone paramedics who are trained to look out for other injuries and check the patient's obs which might pick up fevers, mini strokes, fractured bones etc that I might miss.
Once we had to wait a seemingly endless time but the paramedics had been called out on emergencies and we weren't such a priority, usually they have arrived within in an hour or two.
Occasionally when I have called them you get a response vehicle (car) instead of the full blown ambulance, we have had both. I think perhaps they would send out these response vehicles as a first option if the vehicle is near/available or perhaps send an ambulance in first response if they think admission is a likely outcome.
Hi Greta,
In my cousin's area where she works as an OT, they have a falls clinic, I know this isn't what you are suggesting, but has your sister been referred to one. They look at preventing further falls.

Thank you all for your replies. It seems as though it's best to wait for the ambulance. Maybe my sister has just been unlucky in response times but it does seem wrong to me that an elderly person, or indeed anyone, should have to wait on the floor for hours before having some attention.

Thank you Melly. Yes my sister has been to a 'falls' clinic. Also been given exercises which she wouldn't do. She has no loose mats or other potential hazards and wears sensible slippers so I don't see what else we can do.

It was just an idea of mine that there could be a specialist, volunteer, local team to deal with falls in the elderly, as a quicker response than waiting for the paramedics.

Thanks for your thoughts.

was just an idea of mine that there could be a specialist, volunteer, local team to deal with falls in the elderly, as a quicker response than waiting for the paramedics.
If only the powers that be listened to the carers. I'm sure someone else has posted about this on the forum somewhere and said they did have this sevice in their area. I can't remember if it was a pilot scheme / permanent nor the ins and outs though.


Ps does your sister have care worker visits? Would she do the exercises for them, if not for family?
In Falkirk where we live, we are registered with the Mobile Emergency Carering Service - MECS. You can have a call button to wear around your neck or, as I have chosen, you call them on the phone and they send emergency carers to help my husband when he falls. They are brilliant and come within 10/15 minutes and are very experienced and caring in moving and handling their patients. I couldn't do without them as I can't lift him back up when he goes down.
Hello Irene,

This is just the type of service I meant. There is nothing like this in our area. (South Coast). It's a case of either wait for an ambulance, (sometimes hours) or call on my elderly husband to come with me and help my sister to get up. There is no one else I can call on. Thanks for your post. It's very interesting. Perhaps my original idea for a 'falls team' is not so stupid after all.
My MIL falls quite often as she has poor balance and muscle tone.
Because my partner has a knackered back, we don't lift her ourselves.
We tend to dig her out (she's a terrible one for clutter, no matter how many times I help put everything away, within a week it's all back round the bed again), then help her to gradually manoeuvre herself round so she can get up onto her knees.
Once she's on her knees I get a small low stool or chair that she can use to get herself a bit more upright and gradually basically climb her way back up until she's sitting back on the chair or the bed.
It takes quite a long time - sometimes nearly an hour - and she has to have lots of little rests in between, but it's the best way to protect all of us from physical damage from bodily lifting.
Lots of time and patience and encouragement are needed, followed by a hot drink and a biscuit, but we get there in the end.
Here's quite a useful link: