Are You At Risk of Falling?

Jun 2, 2017 | Blog, Houston Healthy Living Blog

A growing health concern among aging adults is the risk of falling. Falls have been identified as a major health risk as a leading cause of mortality, morbidity, and premature placement in nursing care. In fact, falls contribute to the foremost cause for disability and loss of autonomy among the older adult population. As this population continues to grow, the need to develop an accurate, predictive assessment of fall risk is as great as ever.

What are the risk factors?

Predicting falls has proven difficult due to the multiple confounding factors that contribute to falls, and it is important to distinguish the various internal and external factors that impact this risk. Internal factors include medical history, current medical condition, and physical state. Medical risk factors most predicative of falls are previous falls, dizziness, cognitive impairment or depression, visual impairment, incontinence, and orthostatic hypotension. The most prominent factors are impaired gait and balance, wandering, muscle weakness, and slow walking speed. External factors include the use of a walking aid, use of nonadapted shoes, and the presence of obstacles on the ground.

What steps have been made for prevention?

Finding a solution for fall prevention is an ongoing process, but by identifying external factors in particular, environmental changes can be made to reduce the likelihood of falls. Research by Dr. Thomas Koepsell at the University of Washington found that wearing shoes decreased an individuals’s risk of falling versus those who were barefoot or in socks. Those who obtain quality sleep generally demonstrate increased cognitive and physical functioning; those without it, on the other hand, demonstrate decreased reaction times and vigilance during daily activities. Another factor to consider is when and where the fall occurred. Walking at night, often due to waking up to use the restroom, has been correlated with an increased prevalence of falls. These factors create a discussion on safety concerns and what, if any, precautions need to be taken by older adults to prevent falls in the future.