FALLS – OLDER ADULTS
Falls are the leading cause of injury‐related deaths and hospitalizations for adults aged 65 years and older in BC. 1
World Health Organization defines a fall as an event which results in a person coming to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level, with or without injury.3
The risk of falling and suffering injuries from a fall increases with age, and BC has one of the most rapidly aging populations in Canada. Between 2009 and 2016, there was 30% increase in the number of hospitalizations for fall-related injuries among older adults in BC.1,2
In BC, one in three older adults will fall once every year4 and around half of older adults who fall experience minor injuries, while 5 to 25% will sustain a serious outcome.5 National statistics show that broken or fractured bones are the most common type of fall-related injuries, highlighting the importance of promoting bone health among older adults.6
Falls are the leading cause of loss of independence among older adults4 and may lead to disability, chronic pain, and reduced quality of life. Falls and associated outcomes not only affect the injured individuals, but also have negative impacts for the family, society, health care system and economy. In monetary terms, falls cost British Columbian older adults $570 million in 2020.7
One of the strongest predictors of a future fall is a past fall. Even a fall resulting in minor injuries needs to be taken seriously.
BCIRPU supports fall prevention efforts at the policy, practice, and community levels. Fall prevention for older adults is one of the provincial priorities for injury prevention.
Most falls are predictable and preventable. Fall prevention should focus on promoting independence and activity, and include the older adults and their networks of support (e.g., family, friends, caregivers).
Reduce fall risk and maintain independence:
- Exercise to improve mobility, incrase muscle strength and balance: Older adults with strong muscles and good balance are less likely to fall. Participation in a safe exercise program designed to improve strength and balance is the single most effective fall prevention intervention.2 If you have an underlying medical condition, discuss your plans for physical activity with your health care provider before beginning an exercise program.
- Annual optometrist examinations: Good vision can reduce the risk of falling, while multifocal glasses may pose an added risk for falls, by impairing depth perception or distance contrast sensitivity.2
- Annual medication review with a doctor or pharmacist: Taking multiple medications is linked to falls. Moreover, some medications can increase the risk of falling, while some increase the odds of a serious outcome if a fall occurs.2
- Remove tripping hazards in the home and install supports, as needed: Tripping hazards, such as cords, loose rugs, and piles of magazines and books are often overlooked but easy to fix. Physical supports can help avoid falls, such as grab bars in the bathroom.
Finding Balance BC is a provincial effort to educate older adults and their caregivers with the latest fall prevention information. Learn more at findingbalancebc.ca.
- Injury Insights: Fall-Related Deaths Among Older Adults in British Columbia (November 2019)
- Injury Insights: Injuries from Falls on Stairs (August 2017)
According to Statistics Canada, British Columbia has one of the most rapidly aging populations in Canada.
We’re still all in this together.
Ensuring a safe home environment for your parent and older loved ones is important.
BCIRPU’s Megan Oakey is a co-applicant on this grant awarded by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.
BCIRPU received funding from the Francophone Affairs Program to distribute fall prevention messages to French-speaking older adults and their caregivers in BC.
2. Government of British Columbia, Guidelines & Protocols Advisory Committee (2021). Fall Prevention: Risk Assessment and Management for Community-Dwelling Older Adults. Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/practitioner-professional-resources/bc-guidelines/fall-prevention
3. World Health Organization (2021). Falls. Key Facts. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/falls
4. Seniors’ Fall Prevention. Government of British Columbia. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/injury-prevention/seniors-fall-prevention
5. Pike, I., Richmond, S., Rothman, L., & Macpherson, A. K. (Eds.). (2015). Canadian Injury Prevention Resource: An Evidence-informed Guide to Injury Prevention in Canada. Parachute.
6. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2014). Seniors’ Falls in Canada, Second Report. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/aging-seniors/publications/publications-general-public/seniors-falls-canada-second-report.html
7. Rajabali, F., Ibrahimova, A., Barnett, B., & Pike, I. (2015, August 31). Economic Burden of Injury in British Columbia. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0397291.[Cost converted to 2020 dollars with CPI and include cost of deaths, hospitalized treatment, emergency department visits, and permanent disability.]
8. Provincial injury prevention priorities. (2017). BC Injury Prevention Committee. Retrieved from: http://www.bccdc.ca/pop-public-health/Documents/bcipc-provincial-injury-prevention-priorities-2017.pdf