Some of the most important features of falls in elderly people might have been missed in previous studies, which are generally based on interviews, incident reports or artificial laboratory simulations. More valid and effective approaches for balance assessment and fall prevention in long-term care can be provided by insight into the sequences of events that most commonly lead to falls, according to recent study results.
Between April 2007 and June 2010, researchers installed digital video cameras in common areas, such as dining rooms, lounges and hallways, in two long-term care facilities in British Columbia, Canada. Researchers reviewed each fall video with a validated questionnaire that assessed the cause of imbalance and activity at the time of falling. Data were assessed to note whether differences existed in the proportion of participants falling due to various causes and while engaging in various activities.
Overall, 227 falls from 130 individuals were captured. Forty-one percent of falls were caused by incorrect weight shifting, which was the most frequent cause of falling, followed by trip or stumble (21%), hit or bump (11%), loss of support (11%), collapse (11%) and slipping (3%). The highest proportion of falls was associated with forward walking (24%), standing quietly (13%) and sitting down (12%). Researchers identified a higher occurrence of falls during standing and transferring, a lower occurrence during walking and a larger proportion due to center-of-mass perturbations than base-of-support perturbations compared with previous reports from the long-term care setting, according to study results.
“Prevention of falls in elderly people needs to be a public health priority. However, up to now, the general scarcity of reliable information on falls in elderly people has hindered the development of safer environments for older people and fall prevention programs,” Stephen Robinovitch, of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, stated in a press release. “Our study provides long-missing objective evidence of the causes and circumstance of falls in elderly people, and should open up new avenues for the prevention of fall injury in long-term care.”
For more information:
Robinovitch SN. Lancet. 2012;doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61263-X.