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Common types of falls in elderly people

In this article, we'll cover common falls among the elderly, the reasons behind them, and ways to reduce the risk of falls.

December 21, 2023

Elderly man having a fall

An estimated 1.6 million older adults experience at least one fall every year and the potential consequences of falls become more serious with age. Around one in five falls in those aged 80+ years results in a hospital visit.

In this article, we look at the most common types of falls in elderly people and some of the reasons why they occur. We also look at ways to help lower the risk of an older loved one in your life experiencing a fall and how to bring additional peace of mind when it comes to falls.

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What are the three types of falls in elderly people

While there might be many dozens of different reasons why older people may experience a fall, the types of falls have been generally categorised into three groups. These are called anticipated, accidental and unanticipated falls.

What are anticipated falls?

Anticipated falls refer to falls that are more likely to occur because of particular risk factors that the individual has. Some of the common risk factors associated with anticipated falls can include:

  • Having medical conditions that cause weak muscles or balance problems
  • Impaired sight or hearing
  • Taking medications with known side effects of things such as dizziness or light-headedness, which are known to contribute to some falls
  • Having bladder or bowel conditions that can lead to rushing to the bathroom
  • Having a diagnosis of dementia, with symptoms that often lead to disorientation and confusion.

Preventing anticipated falls

With anticipated falls, certain measures can be put in place to help minimise the risk of having a fall of this type. These might include:

  • Doing appropriate strength and balance exercises in later life can help those who might otherwise experience weak muscles and balance issues. Always consult with a medical professional before starting a new exercise regime
  • Ensure regular check-ups are attended for sight and hearing, and if a hearing aid or prescription glasses are needed, make sure that they are being used correctly
  • Speaking to the GP about medication side effects might mean there are alternative medications that don’t increase the risk of a fall
  • Make accessing the bathroom as fast and straightforward as possible for someone with bladder or bowel conditions, removing any potential trip hazards and ensuring there is adequate lighting if they often need to visit the bathroom at night
  • If your older loved one has a dementia diagnosis, ensure that their home environment is as safe as it can be to help minimise the risk of falls.

What are accidental falls?

Elderly woman slipping on ice

Accidental falls, as you might expect, refer to those falls caused by something accidental, such as slipping on a wet or icy surface or tripping over an obstruction. If an older person experiences an accidental fall, it means that they were generally considered at low risk of a fall before it happened i.e. it wasn’t anticipated due to any of the reasons mentioned earlier. It’s also more straightforward to put measures in place to stop accidental falls.

Preventing accidental falls

While it’s never possible to guarantee that a fall can’t happen accidentally, there are lots of measures that can minimise these risks. These include:

  • Making sure that there are no trip hazards on the floor of the home, such as trailing wires or loose flooring
  • Removing clutter from the home, so there is less chance of something obstructing a walkway or falling into the elderly person’s path
  • Ensuring that the lighting in and just outside of the home is adequate, especially at night. This could include installing motion-activated lights
  • Installing handrails or grab rails in areas of the home where accidental falls are more likely, such as when the floor is wet in the bathroom or kitchen, or in stairways
  • Ensure that they have well-fitting footwear that has grips on the soles when in the home. This may mean that their usual slippers need an upgrade
  • Ensuring that the older adult can easily reach things in cupboards and on shelves, so they don’t have to stretch or stand on anything to get items down.

See more on how to prevent slips, trips and falls in the elderly.

What are unanticipated falls?

Unanticipated falls are when someone, who otherwise has a low risk of falling, experiences a fall that is usually due to a health issue that wasn’t known about. This could be due to health problems such as:

  • A seizure
  • A heart attack
  • A stroke
  • Fainting or passing out.

Preventing unanticipated falls

As unanticipated falls usually happen ‘out of the blue’, it can be quite difficult to prevent them from happening completely.

For those with an elderly relative or friend who lives independently, especially if they live alone, it can be a real worry that they might have an unanticipated fall and not be able to reach help. Independent living aids for seniors might help you prevent some of the common falls in elderly.  

One solution that can really help bring peace of mind is a monitored personal alarm that has fall detector technology. This means that the wearable alarm will automatically detect if the person wearing it has a hard fall, and can raise an alert with the 24/7 emergency resolution team if this happens.

The team will first attempt to speak to the wearer through the device. Even if they are unable to speak, the team can get in touch with the listed contacts or the emergency services, if required.

For those who spend lots of time out and about and are very active, an elderly GPS tracker that is also a fall detection advice could be ideal. Not only does it detect falls automatically as already described, it also has GPS technology built-in, so will not only raise an alert but will also send the GPS location of the wearer.

Peace of mind for those at risk of a fall

There are lots of measures that can help to minimise the risk of an elderly person having a fall, but it’s still a worry for lots of older adults and their loved ones. A personal alarm can be a good option to provide some peace of mind in later years.

TakingCare offer a range of different alarm products with various features that are suited to lots of different types of lifestyle and personal preference. We believe that we have a personal alarm to suit everyone. Get in touch with our team by calling 0800 0121 321 if you want some help choosing the right personal alarm product for your elderly loved one. You can also view our full range of alarms here.

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure