PREVENTING FALLS IN OLDER ADULTS
Each year in Winnipeg, one in three adults over 65 years of age will experience a fall and 1800 will be hospitalized and 91 will die. Older adults who fall once are more than twice as likely to fall again as people who have never fallen. Almost all hip fractures in older adults are caused by a fall (95%). Of these older adults who fracture their hip from falling, over one third will die within a year. Many others will never be able to return to an independent lifestyle, with over one third of those having been hospitalized for a fall being discharged to a nursing home or long term care facility.
There are a number of personal and non-modifiable factors have been shown to increase an individual’s risk of falls.
- Age: Fall-related hospital admissions increase with age. The rate of fall-related hospitalization is almost 7 times higher among people 85 year of age and older than those aged 65-74 years.
- Gender: Hospital admissions due to falls are greater among females than males. In 2004, rates of hospitalized and non-hospitalized treatment for falls were over 1.6 times higher for females than males.
- Previous falls: Older adults who fall once are more than twice as likely to fall again as people who have never fallen.
Other falls risk factors can be modified of managed. These include decreased balance and strength, impaired mobility, chronic health conditions, cognitive impairment, medication use and impaired vision.
Prevention of falls for people living in the community
Research suggests that falls in the community can be reduced by the following interventions:
- Exercise programs that challenge balance: Exercise programs that challenge balance and are done at least 2 hours per week have the greatest effect on reducing falls. Tai Chi is an example of an exercise program that is effective in reducing an individual’s risk of falling.
- Vitamin D supplementation: Vitamin D supplementation with calcium reduces the risk of falls, particularly in people who are vitamin D deficient.
- Managing medications: Review and withdrawal from medication use can reduce an individual’s risk of falling.
- Environmental intervention: Comprehensive and focused interventions that increase home safety by eliminating environmental hazards, providing home and equipment modifications and educating on footwear choices may decrease falls risk, particularly in high-risk individuals.
For all of our fall prevention resources and information go to www.preventfalls.ca
- www.preventfalls.ca – This is the WRHA’s website dedicated to falls prevention for older adults. Features include interactive checklist to help identify personal fall risk factors, an interactive home safety checklist and an inventory of exercise programs that meet fall prevention criteria, searchable by postal code.
- Canadian Falls Prevention Education Collaborative – website for professional offers publications, research, conference and event information related to falls. Administers the Canadian Falls Prevention Curriculum course.
- Manitoba Healthy Living and Seniors – includes Manitoba falls injury statistics and links to provincial and national fall prevention resources.