Falls affecting older people

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation in persons 65+. As people grow older falls become more common which increases the likelihood of an injury. There are many outcomes of a fall from minor cuts, abrasions and resuming life as normal to impairment, disability, loss of capacity to work, dependency, loss of quality of life but also fatality. Understanding risks and making changes to the home making it as safe as possible are just some methods to prevent falls.

Most falls happen around the home but falls are also common in daily life out and about. A fall may be the first indicator of a problem in older people but may also stem from an existing chronic illness (Parkinsonism or, dementia) or a marker in the progression to older age with changes in vision and strength. The likelihood of a fall increases because of the natural changes that happen as our bodies age but this does not mean falls for everyone are not preventable. A focus on general fitness and regular activity is just one simple way to guard against loss of balance.

Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found current fall prevention awareness campaigns focused on avoiding risk rather than engaging in activities to improve strength and balance. Focusing on the benefits of prevention should counteract negative views that falls are a consequence of old age and prevention of risk should be priority.

Care and caution should be emphasised as decreased vision, decreased strength and a weakened balance system will limit the abilities of older people. Messages should focus on recognising your limits and respecting your abilities. An approach of think twice or asking for assistance is recommended as using step ladders or over reaching is inadvisable.

Most common injuries from falls
– Superficial cuts and abrasions
– Bruises
– Sprains
Major (Hospitalisation)
– Concussion
– Fractures of the leg and thigh
– Fracture of arm and radius
– Fracture of neck
– Fracture of trunk bones (torso and other bones)
– Organ damage