Approximately 20% to 30% of older adults in Canada experience a fall each year (1). In 2009, researchers found that 85% of injury-related hospitalizations and 95% of all hip fractures were due to falls (1). Most falls occur in the home; often in the bedroom, the bathroom and on the stairs (1).
As people age, their risk of falling increases due to changes in their vision, hearing, posture (tendency to stoop over) and reaction time (2). Medical conditions such as arthritis, pain, cataracts, hip surgery, previous stroke or Parkinson’s disease, can affect an individual’s walk; therefore, increasing their risk of tripping and falling (2). Chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can also affect an individual’s balance (2). Additionally, side-effects of certain medications such as sedatives (for example sleeping or anxiety medications), strong pain medications and heart medications can increase the risk of falls. (2). The more medications an individual uses, the more likely the side-effects can cause a fall. It is important to consult with your family physician and/or nurse practitioner to review medications if falls or losses of balance are a concern. Finally, a fear of falling may modify someone’s behaviour (reactions) and can actually increase their risk of falling (2).
Prevention of falls is key. Creating a safer home environment can help reduce the risk of falls. A home assessment by an occupational therapist can provide recommendations for modifications in the home. Also, a physiotherapist can suggest exercises to help at-risk individuals become more resistant to falls.
Stay on Your Feet (SOYF) is a free, eight-week community program in the KFL&A area that consists of a weekly educational presentation on falls prevention. Check KFL&A Public Health’s website for up-to-date information for the SOYF schedule and resources.