Why do people fall?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Most people never ask this question. If they did, they would most likely have a better chance of preventing a fall from happening or reduce the frequency of the likelihood of it occurring. The fundamental reason why people – young or old fall is quite simple – challenge to or loss of balance or strength. To put in more simply, an individual falls because they experience an event that challenges their stability or strength. If one is overwhelmed by this challenge they lose balance and the ability to remain upright, hence the fall.

Statistics for young and old:

As we age, we begin to experience a physically and psychologically decline, increasing the risk of disability and dependency. Falls top the list for the cause of severe injury like hip fractures or fatal head or brain injuries in seniors. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) notes that older people are commonly hospitalized because of fall-related injuries. It also notes that 59% of cases reported showed that more incidents occurred at home – 7 in 10 people – from 2011 to 2012 and they happened to people aged 65 and over. Every year at least one in three adults above age 65 experiences a fall while out of five falls in older adults, only one usually requires the attention of a medic. Children from ages 0 to 19 are likely to experience fall-related non-fatal injuries and this is common during play.

Fall prevention measures in the home will differ depending on the age and health of the individual you are trying to protect from falling. But there are common measures that will work for every age.

3 things to do to prevent falls in the home:

Get them to begin a program for regular exercise: exercising regularly is great because it helps improve balance, improve muscle flexibility and strength or power, and most importantly increase the amount of time you spend being active. In other words – keep moving. Learning Tai Chi is a very popular way of training for strength and balance. Speak to your doctor before taking up any form of exercise. It may be necessary to seek the services of a physical therapist.

Have your physician - review medicines: certain drugs like antidepressants and sedatives may cause fatigue, nausea, insomnia, and drowsiness – especially when you first start using them – and may increase the risk of fall. You doctor is likely to make recommendations on the discontinued use of certain drugs. Other health conditions could increase fall risk – high blood pressure, diabetes etc. Be sure to talk to your doctor about other seemingly unrelated experiences. Seeing your physician is also likely going to involve having a vision check.

Make your home safer:

Remove clutter. Make sure that walkways and the home, in general, is free of items that may cause a fall and make sure to fix areas like wooden floorboards or carpeting that is loose. Frequently used home areas should be made easily accessible without residents having to sway or raise their feet way above the ground unnecessarily.

Proper lighting. Elderly people are sometimes beleaguered by poor vision. Be sure that your home is brightly lit. Night lights in the bedroom, hallway, and bathroom are necessary. Flashlights may come in handy in case there is a power outage. Make sure they are stored in easy-to-reach areas. Consider using light switches that glow in the dark and make clear paths for easy reach if switches are not placed at the entrance to a room.

Clothing and footwear. Avoid loose-fitting clothes. They can get caught on a protruding object and cause you to stumble. Yes, I know you are home and want to put on something comfortable but clothes that drag on the floor or that doesn't bunch up should be avoided. Discontinue the use of high heeled shoes, or the ones with slick soles. Wearing stockings is also a No-No. Get shoes that sturdy, fit properly, and have non-skid soles. Clean liquid spills immediately or greasy floors.

Stay on one level only or install safety devices. Sometimes using the stairs can be a great challenge for the elderly. Some may experience shortness of breath, dizziness, or tiredness depending on the state of health. Install handrails or grab bars for use in getting in and out of bathtubs or on and off of toilet seats. Make use of non-slip mats where necessary – bathrooms, kitchens, porches etc.

Even if guardrails are used, there is a significant chance that a fall might occur. If you can't help but move up or down the stairs, try to limit the number of trips you make.


Most importantly, knowledge about the populations who are more at risk and falls that have the most significant consequences is vital for streamlining resources in the future and studying the effectiveness of fall prevention strategies. That being said, falls are not an inevitable part of aging and can with most certainty be reduced to the barest minimum if caregivers take proper precaution.


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