Circumstances and outcomes of falls among high risk community-dwelling older adults
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Circumstances and outcomes of falls among high risk community-dwelling older adults

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  • Alternative Title:
    Inj Epidemiol
  • Description:

    For older adults, falls threaten their health, independence, and quality of life. Knowing the circumstances surrounding falls is essential for understanding how behavioral and environmental factors interact in fall events. It is also important for developing and implementing interventions that are effective and acceptable to older adults. This study investigated the circumstances and injury outcomes of falls among community-dwelling older adults at high risk of falling.


    In this secondary analysis, we examined the circumstances and outcomes of falls experienced by 328 participants in the Dane County (Wisconsin) Safety Assessment for Elders (SAFE) Research Study. SAFE was a randomized controlled trial of a community-based multifactorial falls intervention for older adults at high risk for falls, conducted from October 2002 to December 2007. Participants were community-dwelling adults aged ≥65 years who reported at least one fall during the year after study enrollment. Falls were collected prospectively using monthly calendars. Everyone who reported a fall was contacted by telephone to determine the circumstances surrounding the event. Injury outcomes were defined as none, mild (injury reported but no treatment sought), moderate (treatment for any injury except head injury or fracture), and severe (treatment for head injury or fracture).


    Data were available for 1,172 falls. A generalized linear mixed model analysis showed that being age ≥85 (OR = 2.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.2–3.9), female (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.3–3.4), falling backward and landing flat (OR = 5.6, 95% CI = 2.9–10.5), sideways (OR = 4.6, 95% CI = 2.6–8.0) and forward (OR = 3.3, 95% CI = 2.0–5.7) were significantly associated with the likelihood of injury. Of 783 falls inside the home, falls in the bathroom were more than twice as likely to result in an injury compared to falls in the living room (OR = 2.4, 95% CI = 1.2–4.9).


    Most falls among these high risk older adults occurred inside the home. The likelihood of injury in the bathroom supports the need for safety modifications such as grab bars, and may indicate a need for assistance with bathing. These findings will help clinicians tailor fall prevention for their patients and have practical implications for retirement and assisted living communities and community-based fall prevention programs.

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