Fall Prevention: The Reality

As an occupational therapist working with seniors living in the community my biggest frustration is when my concerns and recommendations are not taken seriously. Falls are the most common health problem in older adults. Falls can lead to loss of autonomy, reduced mobility, less participation in activities, decreased self-confidence, depression, and even early death. Falls are the leading cause of death by injury in adults 65 and over. The World Health Organization reports that as many as 40% of injury-related deaths can be linked to a fall.

Yet people commonly misperceive the risk of falling as not real. What they don’t realize is underestimating the danger actually compounds the risk.

Common misperceptions include thinking that the risk is not real

When I talk to my clients about their risk of falling they tend to rationalize that a fall will not happen because they are very careful, or because they are familiar with their home environment. Or they just think such a thing won’t happen to them.
The fact is that many falls occur at home (in the bathroom, in the kitchen, on the stairs) or in immediate, familiar surroundings.

Some of my most common recommendations are related to fall prevention. I can usually identify multiple falls risks within the first minute of walking into a client’s home. The top four offenders are:

• Clutter
• Poor choices/lack of footwear
• Not using mobility aid
• Carpet everywhere!

I try to educate people about the risk factors of falls whenever possible, and not in an effort to scare people. Rather, I want to raise awareness that following often relatively simple recommendations and taking preventative action preserves independence as long as possible.

I cannot emphasize it enough. The risk for falls is real. And the consequences are real. How can we prevent falls in the first place? The answer is multifactorial in nature; but there are basic and simple recommendations that can be followed in order to reduce the risk for falls. Fall prevention will be explored in blogs to come!

Health Canada. (2006). Seniors and aging – Preventing falls in and around your home.
Thomas, A. (2013). Falls in older adults. [PDF document]. Lecture notes of A. Thomas, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec.
World Health Organization. (2007). WHO Global Report on Falls Prevention in Older Adults.