Fall Prevention in Older Adults

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. More than one in four adults ages 65+ fall each year. Fortunately, there are evidence-based programs and practices that can reduce the risk of falling.

Senior women exercising at home

Fall Facts:

  • Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries among older adults.
  • One out of ten falls causes a serious injury, such as a hip fracture or head injury, which requires hospitalization.
  • Falling once doubles your chances of falling again.

Falls can be deadly. Among older adults, falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries. Each year, at least 25,000 older adults die as a result of falls. And the rate of fall-related deaths among older adults in the United States has been rising steadily over the past decade.

Fall Prevention:

People are living longer and falls will increase unless we make a serious commitment to preventing them. Fortunately, there are several tools and evidence-based programs that can help reduce risk of falling and falls-related injury.

A fall risk factor is something that increases a person’s chances of falling. This may be a biological characteristic, a behavior, or an aspect of the environment. These risk factors include:

Biological risk factors

  • Muscle weakness or balance problems
  • Medication side effects and/or interactions
  • Chronic health conditions such as arthritis and stroke
  • Vision changes and vision loss
  • Loss of sensation in feet

Behavioral risk factors

  • Inactivity
  • Risky behaviors such as standing on a chair in place of a step stool
  • Alcohol use

Environmental Risk Factors

  • Clutter and tripping hazards
  • Poor lighting
  • Lack of stair railings
  • Lack of grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower
  • Poorly designed public spaces

healthy lifestyle- senior woman with weights

Older Adults

Falls can be prevented. These are some simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling.

Talk to your doctor

  • Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.

Get your eyes checked

Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.

If you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.

Make your home safer

  • Get rid of things you could trip over.
  • Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
  • Put railings on both sides of stairs.
  • Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.

Caregivers

As a caregiver, you can encourage your loved ones to take action to reduce their fall risk.

  • Initiate a conversation with your loved one and their healthcare provider about fall risk and prevention.

The EnhanceFitness program is a low-cost, evidence-based group exercise and falls prevention program. The program strives to help older adults at all levels of fitness become more active, energized, and empowered to sustain independent lives. The EnhanceFitness program also may help reduce risk factors associated with falls.

To learn more about EnhanceFitness or find a free/low-cost class near you, visit: https://projectenhance.org/ 

Study For Rural Innovations In The Delivery Of Exercise (STRIDE)

The HIPRC research team is partnered with Arbor Health and Sound Generations, a rural serving health care system in Lewis County, Washington, to recruit older adults with knee osteoarthritis (OA) to participate in the study. Researchers interviewed the study participants to understand their technology needs and preferences for virtually delivered exercise (tele-EF). The study participants attended a 1-hour tele-EF classes 3 days a week for 12 weeks. After completing the tele-EF program, participants were asked about their satisfaction with the program and suggestions for improving it.

Study Results

HIPRC found that remotely delivered EnhanceFitness improved arthritis-related pain and physical performance among rural older adults in Lewis County. EnhanceFitness is a group-based, instructor led exercise program recommended by the CDC for people with arthritis

A checklist from the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention can help you check your risk for falling.

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

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