Neck alarms will give pensioners peace of mind in case of a fall

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TWO frail pensioners who fell in their homes last week received help within minutes thanks to new state-of-the-art alarms.

The pair were among the first to be given the new neck pendant alarm connected direct to support staff under a joint city council and NHS Lothian scheme.

In one case, a 90-year-old man from the east of the city landed on his kitchen floor last Wednesday, but within 15 minutes carers arrived to bring him to his feet.

The previous day, a woman, aged 92, from the north-west, fell on her living room floor, also activating a neck alarm, allowing staff to arrive quickly to check her over.

It comes as the Telecare Falls Project is being rolled out across the city, introducing electronic detectors in properties where residents are known to be at risk.

The 120,000 initiative will help around 300 people over the next year.

Councillor Paul Edie, health and social care convener, said: "A fall can shake people's confidence and leave them isolated. They become worried about leaving their home for routine trips to the shops or even moving too far from the safety of a particular room.

"If we can rebuild their self-belief then they can literally rebuild their lives and grasp back their independence."

The detectors are linked to a 24/7 mobile support team which will respond to a fall within minutes, potentially saving NHS Lothian 150,000 and 1,000 hospital bed days a year.

Every year across the UK, falls account for 10 per cent of acute hospital admissions, resulting in NHS spending of 1.7 billion and 70,000 fractured hips.

Residents must be referred to the Edinburgh Community Alarm and Telecare Team, allowing them to receive a fall detector, one for their bed and chair and one to monitor movement, along with pull-cord alarms.

Lynne Douglas, associate director for allied health professionals, NHS Lothian, said: "Telecare equipment plays an important part of falls prevention. Falls are not an inevitable part of getting older and many can be prevented by using simple techniques such as learning how to improve your balance and staying mobile."

It is estimated one-third of people will fall every year, with figures for 2007 showing there were 1,558 emergency hospital admissions in the Lothians as a result.

The scheme also helped a 49-year-old epileptic man last Tuesday, detecting he had experienced a seizure and landed on his floor. Within 11 minutes, staff arrived to help him up.

Over the next year the scheme will be evaluated for the success of its equipment and its impact on people's quality of life.

Cllr Edie said:

"Falls are a major reason for people going into long-term care and addressing this issue is a priority for both the council and NHS Lothian."