Falls are a marker of frailty, immobility, and acute and chronic health impairment in older persons. Falls in turn diminish function by causing injury, activity limitations, fear of falling, and loss of mobility. Most injuries in the elderly are the result of falls; fractures of the hip, forearm, humerus, and pelvis usually result from the combined effect of falls and osteoporosis.1,2
Prevention of falls must span the spectrum of ages and health states within the older population and address the diversity of causes of falls without unnecessarily compromising quality of life and independence. Most falls, however, do not cause sufficient injury to receive medical attention.
Between 30 and 50 percent of falls result in a variety of minor soft tissue injuries that do not receive medical attention; the remainder cause no injury or only trivial damage. 3 Age-related disturbances in the organization and central neurological integration of sensory and motor functions may impair the speed, effectiveness, and reliability of postural reflexes, leading to falls.4
There are a number of ways to help prevent falls in and around the home:
Because falls tend to occur where people spend the most time, a home-oriented prevention strategy is important. An approach that combines medical and physical therapy evaluation with a home environment assessment may be particularly effective owing to the fact that physical disabilities and environmental factors interact to cause many falls.5,6