Falls and fractures in older people are often preventable. Reducing falls and fractures is therefore important in maintaining health, wellbeing and independence.
Although everyone is at risk of falling, evidence shows that those over the age of 65 have the greatest risk. Falls can have a significant impact on physical, psychological and social health and wellbeing. A fall can result in a loss of confidence, social isolation, pain and distress, hospital admissions and increased risk of death. Falls are also costly to individuals and their families and to our health and social care system too.
- Fear of falling can lead to general loss of confidence, which may, in turn, impact on the person’s willingness to leave their home and a decrease in their level of independence. This can result in social isolation and increased frailty as the result of reduced physical activity and a decrease in the level of independence.
Reducing risk factors for falls, for example, supporting older adults to stay physically active and increasing their strength and balance, can support them to feel more confident and reduce their fear of falling. Similarly, addressing environmental hazards in the home/wider environment, can also increase confidence and reduce the fear of falling.
What is a fall?
A fall is defined as an event which causes a person to, unintentionally, rest on the ground or lower level, and is not a result of a major intrinsic event (such as a stroke), or overwhelming hazard1.
There are many factors that may result in a person falling such as poor health or frailty, or environmental factors, such as trip hazards within the home or within the community.
The causes of a fall are multifactorial. A fall occurs as a result of the interaction of multiple risk factors, these include:
- Muscle weakness
- Poor balance
- Visual impairment
- Polypharmacy(many medications) – and the use of certain medicines
- Environmental hazards
- Some specific medical conditions, which may make a person more likely to fall
The likelihood and severity of the injury after a fall is associated with a number of other factors including risk of falls, bone health, low weight and frailty1.