older adult fall preventionElderly falls not only bring the risk of physical trauma, but psychological trauma, as well. While falls in the elderly can lead to serious injury, even the fear of falling can have a subtle impact on quality of life.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • 1 out of every 3 adults age 65 and older falls each year.
  • Falls are also the leading cause of injury-related death in older adults, as well as the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
  • Falls are also one of the leading causes of readmission after adults are discharged from the hospital or a rehabilitation facility.

Many factors can cause an older adult to fall. Sometimes it is simply the environment that they are living in. Stairs, toys on the floor, and uneven flooring can all lead to a fall, especially when someone is recovering from surgery or other medical issues. Some medicines can lead to dizziness or vertigo which makes up 13% of older adult falls. Osteoporosis, confusion, and other balance disorders can all contribute to falls as well.

The Impact of Falls on Older Adults and How Discharge Planners Can Help

Injury is not the only negative outcome of falling. The fear of falling can be an issue for the older adult and their caregiver. When an individual is afraid of falling they tend to move less and isolate themselves. Lack of movement can lead to further muscle loss and to greater instability and fear of falling. This isolation, in turn, contributes to depression and a sense of helplessness.

When released from the hospital or rehab, the discharge planner should keep several things in mind. First, a review of the patient’s history of falling is important. If they have fallen before, it is likely they may fall again, especially after a medical condition has weakened them or if new medications have been introduced.

A schedule of twenty-four hour a day monitoring is necessary for preventing falls among the elderly. This monitoring is especially important at night. Fifty-five percent of all falls happen in the home. Falling out of the bed is a large concern. Using a hospital bed in the home with rails or bed alarms can go a long way to avoiding this issue.

Twenty-four hour a day care can be difficult for a caregiver. The discharge planner should provide resources and a referral to a home care company. Follow-ups are important, as well, and should be scheduled with the primary health care practitioner and home health care nurse before the patient leaves the hospital.

How to Prevent Falls: A Checklist

There are things caregivers and other family members can do to ensure elderly fall prevention in the home. Here are a few simple tips that may reduce the likelihood of your loved one falling. Please feel free to post this fall prevention checklist somewhere in your home where each member of your household can view it and do their part to keep your elderly loved one safe:

  • Keep pathways and stairways clear of toys, clothes, and other items.
  • If the flooring is uneven or the carpet is loose, have it repaired.
  • Consider moving an older adult’s bedroom to the first floor of the home to eliminate the need to go up and down the stairs.
  • Be aware of possible side effects of medications and keep a close eye on the patient when a new medication is introduced.

It is imperative to do everything possible to keep a fall from happening. With a little knowledge, help, and planning, eliminating or reducing the number of falls is possible.

Has your loved one fallen? What steps have you taken for falls prevention? We’d love to hear your experiences and ideas in the comments below.

For more information, please review our Home Safety Resources.

  • Higplainslawyer

    I care for my 92 year old father who has severe Alzheimers. He spends most of his waking hours in a wheelchair. Although he has a lifting recliner, he prefers the wheelchair, probably because of the mobility it affords.

    He has fallen out of the wheelchair a number of times. He falls asleep in the wheelchair, and leans forward until he tumbles out.

    I did not know you could buy seatbelts for wheelchairs, but you can. The come in either automobile or airline style. Simply fastening the seatbelts avoids falls.

    Also, when wheeling him down a ramp, it is better to back down the ramp than to go face first.

  • Travis Colley

    I understand many falls actually happen due to the hip breaking first, BEFORE the fall. I think elderly may easily snap the greater trochanter or break the hip by twisting around, and should be encouraged to shuffle and turn around so they don’t generate the large twisting forces. This is what happened to my Grandma.