Falls and fall injuries are one of the most common health problems among older adults. However, since falling is not a single disease, clinicians may not recognize falling as a treatable health problem. The consequences of untreated falls and their risk factors can be just as serious as those of other untreated chronic diseases. We have identified risk factors that increase the chance of falling.
While some factors that increase risk of falling cannot be changed (such as age and previous falls), there are a number of important ones that can. These include:
Any problems with walking or movement
Blood pressure dropping too much when getting up (postural hypotension)
Use of four or more medications or any psychoactive medications
Unsafe footwear or foot problems
Environmental hazards that can cause tripping
Research has shown that treating and correcting these specific health problems reduces the rate of falling by more than 30%.
Yale researchers were among the first to show that falls among seniors could be prevented and that fall-prevention interventions mean that seniors are less likely to be hospitalized or need advanced medical care. This research has since been translated into protocols that are used in clinical and community settings to help prevent falls.
Falls and fall injuries:
Are more common than strokes and can be just as serious in their consequences
Are the most preventable cause of needing nursing home placement
Lead to problems with daily activities like dressing, bathing, and walking
Among adults 70 years and older:
Three in 10 fall each year
Two in 10 who need home health care after being in the hospital will fall during the first month after coming home
One in 10 suffer a serious fall injury such as a broken bone or head injury
Five in 10 have problems getting up without help after they have fallen
Falls cause over 90% of broken hips; only half of those who break their hip will get around as well as they did before their broken hip
In the United States, 16% of all emergency department visits and almost 7% of all hospitalizations are for fall-related injuries