Falls! For some, the word has no impact, while for others more acquainted with the potentially serious implications, it is a word that raises the eyebrows and even the heart rate. The first group is likely to have had no connection with anyone that has fallen and hurt themselves. The second class however, is one who has either fallen themselves or knows of someone who has suffered at the hands of a fall.
So, what exactly are we referring to when we say “falls”? And what does it even matter? To put it simply, falls are defined as unexpected events which leave a person on the ground or on a lower level than before the event. It matters because of the potential significant consequences of a fall, especially for the frail and most at-risk populations.
A fall for a child, healthy adolescent or an adult is not usually a big deal. We expect children to fall as they learn to walk and run and it takes time to develop coordination. We also know that accidents happen, which healthy adults and adolescents usually easily recover from. For those who are much older and have much less ability to heal afterwards, the results of a fall can be much more serious. Elderly people tend to have more frail bones, much less ability to balance, poorer eyesight and slower reaction time. These factors, along with others, can lead to much more severe falls. These falls can leave a person that was previously completely independent, incapacitated.
The statistics are astounding, especially when we consider that majority of falls can be prevented. Falls cause more deaths in Australia than motor-vehicle accidents. In fact, falls are responsible for 1/3 of deaths related to unintentional injury and are the single biggest cause of injury-related hospital admissions. Additionally, the survival rate within 6 months for people who take >1hour to rise after falling is only 50%, even if there was no injury!
With these facts in mind, it’s important that we take what steps we can in order to prevent falls. Here are just a few of the largest and more common modifiable risk factors, and some suggestions to minimise their potential impact at home: