Each year slips, trips and falls cause thousands of preventable injuries. Falls are a major cause of injury for older people. A new Cochrane review found that decluttering and reducing hazards around the home can significantly reduce the risk of falls for older people by around one quarter.
The review analyzed 22 studies, including data on more than 8,000 older people living in the community. It found that taking measures to reduce fall hazards around the home lowered the overall rate of falls by 26 per cent. The measures typically included an assessment of fall hazards and recommendations for lowering the risk by an occupational therapist, such as removing clutter and adding handrails and non-slip strips to steps. These measures had the biggest effect, reducing falls by almost 40 per cent.
The review did not find any compelling evidence for other measures to reduce falls – even commonly recommended approaches such as ensuring older people have the correct prescription glasses, special footwear or education on avoiding falls. That’s not to say those interventions can’t be helpful for individual people, but at the population level the study considered, there wasn’t evidence those measures had an effect.
The authors highlight that while everyone can take more care about their home environment and should exercise for balance and lower limb strength, professional support from an occupational therapist is an important intervention for many people living at home. Nearly one third of people aged 65 years and older fall each year, with most falls occurring at home. Preventing falls is an important way of helping people remain healthy and independent as they grow older, as repeated falls can be a sign of the need for managed care and can also mean repeated trips to the hospital, which is risky for older people.
Falls and the elderly: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/falls