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Fall Prevention for Older Persons

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Fall Prevention in Older Persons

According to an article by Van Voast Moncada et al 2017, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in persons older than 65 years old.

Categories of Risk Factors for Falls

There are many risk factors associated with falls and they typically fall into one of two categories:

• Potentially modifiable

• Nonmodifiable factors

Potentially Modifiable Risk Factors

Modifiable risk factors are conditions or contributions to falls that we can affect that will mitigate the risk for a fall. Some of these factors include:

• Muscle weakness

• Balance impairments

• Hypertension

• Gait impairments

• Musculoskeletal pain

• Medication use

Non-modifiable Risk Factors

Non-modifiable risk factors include conditions that are known to be associated with increased falls risk but cannot be altered. Some of these factors include:

• Age older than 80

• Dementia or cognitive impairments

• Previous history of falling

• History of fractures

• History of a CVA/TIA

• Recent discharge from a hospital [within 1 month]

What can physical therapy do for falls prevention?

A physical therapist can help evaluate your risk for falls and assess many of the modifiable risk factors involved in falls. We can provide education and interventions based on our evaluations of each person.

Preventing Falls in the Community Setting

Interventions to mitigate falls in the community setting are multi-faceted. However, exercise or physical therapy-based interventions involving balance, gait, and strength training have been shown to help prevent future falls. In the cited meta-analysis, fall prevention exercises programs reduced falls resulting in fractures by 61% and reduced falls resulting in hospitalization by 43%!

How often should I participate in exercise or physical therapy interventions?

In most of the fall prevention studies examined, protocols that were a minimum of 12 weeks with 30 - 90-minute durations, 1-3 times a week for preventing falls in the community setting.

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