Falls are a common occurrence in older adults, and they often result in some type of injury. Usually, the injury is limited to bruises or scrapes.
However, about 5 to 10 per cent of falls in older adults result in major injury, such as a bone fracture, head injury, or major cuts. Unfortunately, serious injuries – particularly a hip fracture – can be difficult to fully recover from, and can sometimes result in complications that lead to moving to a nursing home, or even death.
Falls generally aren’t the result of simply getting older. A wide variety of medical and environmental factors can contribute to your risk of falling. Identifying them early and addressing them can pay a large future dividend in terms of preventing injury and loss of your independence.
Assessing Wide-Ranging Risks
Preventing falls starts with determining factors that increase your risk of falling. This is usually a fairly extensive process. Still, a thorough exam may be worthwhile if you’ve had a fall that caused an injury, a history of falls or if you feel unsteady on your feet. There are several quick screening tests that can help assess overall fall risk. One that your doctor may use is a functional reach test.
If a full exam is warranted, the goal is to identify contributors to unsteadiness, such as causes of pain, dizziness or light-headedness, weakness, limited range of motion, fatigue, decreased perception of the senses, or decreased mental sharpness.
There may be diseases or conditions that you and your doctor may already know about that contribute to fall risk, such as sleep problems, heart disease, obesity, arthritis or other joint problems, diabetes, cognitive decline, a past stroke, or Parkinson’s disease.