Falls Prevention

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides research and information on the importance of falls prevention. Through their studies, we can gain understanding and take action.

Fortunately, falls are largely preventable.  Key points in understanding and combating falls have been provided by the CDC and are shared below.

unintentional fall death ratesFalls are a major threat to the health and independence of older adults, people aged 65 and older.  Nearly one-third of older adults experience a fall every year.  These falls cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can even increase the risk of early death.

Falls Prevention is important because…

Falls can be devastating. About one out of ten falls among older adults results in a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or head injury, and requires hospitalization. In addition to the physical and emotional pain, many people need to spend at least a year recovering in a long-term care facility. Some never return to their homes.

Falls can be deadly. Falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among older adults.

Falls are costly. Fall-related injuries among older adults, especially among older women, are associated with substantial economic costs.

Falls are preventable. The opportunity to help reduce falls among older adults has never been better. Today, there are effective fall prevention interventions that can be used in community settings.

Risk factors are…

Falls are not an inevitable consequence of aging, but falls do occur more often among older adults because fall risk factors increase with age and are usually associated with health and aging conditions. These risk factors include:

Biological risk factors

  •     Mobility problems due to muscle weakness or balance problems
  •     Chronic health conditions such as arthritis and stroke
  •     Vision changes and vision loss
  •     Loss of sensation in feet

Behavioral risk factors

  • Inactivity
  • Medication side effects and/or interactions
  • Alcohol use

Environmental risk factors

  • Home and environmental hazards (clutter, poor lighting, etc.)
  • Incorrect size, type, or use of assistive devices (walkers, canes, crutches, etc.)
  • Poorly designed public spaces

ER visits for fallsUsually, two or more risk factors interact to cause a fall (such as poor balance and low vision, which can cause a trip and fall going up a single step). Home or environmental risk factors play a role in about half of all falls.

Understanding these risk factors is the first step to reducing older adult falls.

Find the fall assessment developed by the Washington State Department of Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention Program for individuals to use when discussing fall prevention.

Effective interventions to prevent falls

Effective fall interventions reduce fall risk factors through either exercise alone or by combining exercise with other risk reduction approaches such as medication review and management, vision screening and correction, education, and safer living environments.

  • Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, getting more challenging over time.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines—both prescription and over-the counter—to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update your eyeglasses to maximize vision. Consider getting a pair with single vision distance lenses for some activities such as walking outside.
  • Make your home safer by reducing tripping hazards, adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding railings on both sides of stairways, and improving the lighting in your home.

To lower hip fracture risk, older adults can:

  • Get adequate calcium and vitamin D—from food and/or from supplements.
  • Do weight bearing exercise.
  • Get screened and, if needed, treated for osteoporosis.

 To Check your Risk for Falling fill out the questionnaire Here.