Falls Prevention

One in three adults over the age of 65 falls once a year. Non-fatal falls lead to injuries that can cause loss of mobility, function, independence, and quality of life. Fortunately, falling can be prevented.

Falls are a ‘geriatric giant’ and are the third leading cause of chronic disability worldwide with one in three adults over the age of 65 experiencing one or more falls annually. In particular, of the 30% of community-dwelling seniors who fall, 50% will fall repeatedly and as a result, are at significant risk for hospitalization, institutionalization, and even death. The consequences of falls have a large and potentially detrimental impact on one’s mobility and quality of life.

Fortunately, falls can largely be prevented. At the Falls Prevention Clinic we use evidence-based strategies to identify each person’s risk of falling.


Facts on falls

Falls among seniors are one of the most common injury problems in British Columbia.
One third of seniors experience at least one fall per year and half of these seniors fall recurrently.
Falls cause 95% of all hip fractures in older adults.
Falls are the most preventable cause of nursing home placement.

 

Falls are a problem.

  • 1 in 3 seniors (those aged 65 or older) fall annually.
  • Falls among seniors are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries.
  • Non-fatal fall injuries are associated with increased morbidity, decreased functioning and increased healthcare costs.
  • Falls and fall related injuries account for 10-15% of emergency department presentations and 6% of hospital admissions of those aged 65 years and older.
  • In Canada, over $2 billion dollars are spent in direct health care costs alone each year.

 

What health outcomes may result from a fall?

  • 20-30% percent of people who fall suffer from fall-related injuries including lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas.
  • 95% of low-trauma hip fractures are the result of a fall. The most common types of fall-related fractures include the: spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm, and hand.
  • Fall-related injuries may result in loss of independence, functional decline, loss of quality of life, and increased risk of early death.
  • Falls are associated with cognitive decline.
  • Individuals with mild cognitive impairment have double the risk of sustaining a fall
  • Seniors who fall may develop a fear of falling, which may limit their activities resulting in reduced mobility, loss of physical fitness, and subsequent increased risk of falling.

 

Are you at risk for falling?

  • The risk of falling increases with age.
  • Adults aged 75 years and older who fall have a 4-5 times greater likelihood of being admitted to a long-term care facility than adults aged 65-74 years.
  • Approximately 95% of low-trauma hip fractures are caused by falls.
  • Women fracture their hips at a rate almost twice that for men.
  • Women experience other fall-related fractures (e.g. wrist, hip, spine) at approximately twice the rate that men do.
  • Older adults who are taking 4 or more medications are at greater risk for falls.

Tips to prevent falls

To prevent outdoor falls, wear rubber-soled shoes to prevent slipping and always pay attention to your environment.
To prevent indoor falls, keep rooms well lit, free of clutter, install railings along stairs, put grab bars near toilet and shower, and avoid walking in socks or stockings.
Do daily exercises to maintain your balance and strength. A little bit of exercise every day can provide a lot of benefit. See your physician or physical therapist to receive specific guidance

 

The good news – falls are preventable!

  • Engage in regular exercise: Specifically focus on leg, core strengthening and targeted balance exercises. Examples of classes in Vancouver include Osteofit (available across BC), Healthy Heart, and Tai Chi.
  • Review medications: Have your family doctor review your list of medications. Some medications have negative side effects, such as dizziness or drowsiness, that may increase your risk of falling. This is true even of medications you have been on long-term. Drug interactions can also be a factor and patients taking four or more medications are at a greater risk for falls.
  • Have your vision checked regularly: When walking in unfamiliar places, it is important to identify potential tripping hazards. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor annually and ensure your eyeglass prescription is up to date. Avoid wearing bifocals as they may increase your risk of falling.
  • Make your home a safer place: Make your home more safe by removing potential hazards as well as adding safety equipment (e.g., grab bars inside your bathroom by the shower/tub/toilet, railings on both sides of stairways, and adequate lighting throughout your home). Ask your healthcare provider about home safety assessments provided through your community.
  • Wear safe shoes: Avoid wearing flip flops, high-heeled shoes and footwear that doesn’t provide adequate foot traction.