30-50% of seniors experience a fall each year. About a 1/3 of these are serious falls. (1)
In 2009 Ontario researchers found that 50% of injury-related hospitalizations were due to falls and over 90% of all hip fractures were due to falls. Fifty- five out of every 1,000 seniors went to the hospital emergency rooms as a result of a fall and 13 out of 1,000 seniors were hospitalized due to a fall. (1)
As people age, there is an increased risk of falls due to diminished sight, hearing, posture changes (tendency to be stooped over) and slower reaction speed.
Medical conditions such as arthritis, pain, cataracts, hip surgery, previous strokes and conditions such as Parkinson’s disease also affect how individuals walk, and increase the risk of tripping and falling. Balance can also be affected by chronic conditions such diabetes and heart disease.
Side effects of medications such as sedatives, strong analgesics, and cardiac medications can contribute to an increased risk of falls. The more medications someone takes the more likely the side effects may contribute to falls.
It is important to consult with the family physician and/or the nurse practitioner to review medications if falls (or near falls) is a concern.
A fear of falling may modify someone’s behaviour and actually increase the risk of falls.
Most falls occur in the home: often in bedroom, bathroom and on the stairs.
Prevention of falls is the goal. Creating a safer home environment can help reduce the risk of falls. A home assessment by a physiotherapist or occupational therapist can provide recommendations for home modifications and exercises to reduce risk of falls. (2)
1. The Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington Falls Coalition. Retrieved Feb. 2014 from: www.stepsafe.com
2. Anderson, K.E. & McKay C. (2010). How to manage falls in community dwelling older adults: a review of the evidence. Postgrad Med J. 2010 May; 86 (1015):299-306. Retrieved March, 2014 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20406801
3. Cook, W.L., Donaldson, M.G., Janssen, P.A., Khan, K.M. and Sobolev B. (2009). Analysis of recurrent events: a systematic review of randomised controlled trials of interventions to prevent falls. Age Ageing. 2009 Mar; 38(2):151-5. Retrieved March 2014 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19106254
4. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2013). Falls: assessment and prevention of falls in older people:June 2013 NICE. Retrieved March 2014 from: http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG161