Created: January 01, 2013
Tiffany Shubert, PT, PhD is scientist at the Center for Aging and Health, UNC Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
The summary is based primarily on 4 sources: the American Geriatrics Society/British Geriatrics Society Prevention of Falls in Older Persons Guidelines, a 2012 Cochrane Review on interventions for preventing falls in older persons, a 2010 Cochrane Review on interventions for preventing falls in older people in nursing care facilities and hospitals, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths & Injuries) tool kit. This summary focuses on screening for community-dwelling older adults and elderly patients who may come to physical therapy with or without a history of falls or a diagnosis of fall-related injury.
The reasons why older adults fall are complicated. There often are many causes. Decreased strength, balance problems, and difficulty walking; medication errors and mismanagement; problems with vision, thinking, and depression; and the effects of multiple health problems-all are linked to increased rates of falls. Physical therapists help people manage their fall risk by educating them about the reasons why they might be falling, by prescribing the right type and amount of exercises, by working with other health care professionals, and by working with community-based programs for people who want to reduce their risk of falling. Consumers can learn more at MoveForwardPT.com.