Switching to decaffeinated drinks could prevent falls in older people and save the NHS £85m a year

Over 75s should switch to decaffeinated drinks to reduce their risk of falling and save the NHS £85m a year, researchers have found.

In a first-of-its-kind trial, residents at eight care homes saw a 35% reduction in toilet-related falls after switching their hot drinks to decaf versions.

Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes your body produce more urine in a bid to get rid of water more quickly.

By encouraging the residents to switch to decaf, it was hoped that they would be less likely to fall while rushing to get to the loo.

Ioan Bishop, from Care England which ran the trial alongside care company Stow Healthcare and the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust (UHL), said: "It's something that, when you say it to people, they think how have I not thought of that before? It really is that simple.

"Falls are a huge problem both for the individual concerned but also in terms of the cost to our NHS and social care system."

The trial followed a similar initiative by UHL in 2021, in which decaffeinated drinks were suggested to patients at the hospital after a continence nurse specialist noticed many were falling on the way to the toilet.

Care England, the body representing care services, now wants the scheme rolled out on a wider scale.

It estimates that if the project was replicated across the UK care sector, it would prevent thousands of falls and save the NHS up to £85m a year through reduced treatment and hospital admissions.

Bob Leese was one of 300 care home residents who took part in a trial to cut out caffeinated drinks Credit: ITV News Anglia

For 78-year-old Bob Leese, one of 300 care home residents in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex who took part in the trial, the impact was enough to make him give up caffeine completely.

"It was noticeable that, after the programme started, I fell less and less," he said. "I'm not saying I don't ever fall over, but it's certainly not frequent.

"And also I didn't really often get a full night's sleep, but my sleep got better."

The annual cost of fragility fractures in social care to the NHS is £1.1bn, according to government figures, and falls are the most common cause of injury-related deaths in people aged over 75.

Bosses at Stow Healthcare said the project had been "eye opening".

More than 90% of residents chose to take part in the trial after being told about the potential health benefits of making the switch, with the choice of caffeine always available on request.

Michelle French, nursing deputy manager at Stowlangtoft Hall care home near Bury St Edmunds, said: "The biggest thing from a fall is, apart from the injuries, the lack of confidence that people get.

"With this project, it's just been lovely to see that people have been able to gain their confidence and actually not have those falls that they were having before."

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