Best Practices to Prevent Falls

January 2003

The Problem

In Minnesota, falls are the leading cause of injury for children, and for all adults 35 and older. They account for almost half the hospitalized injuries and are the leading cause of injuries treated in emergency departments.

Minnesotans of all ages have fall death rates one and one-half times higher than the U.S. rates, and among the elderly, Minnesota fall death rates are more than three times greater than the national rate. One of every three Americans 65 years old or older falls each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among this age group. Falls account for 87 percent of all fractures for people 65 years and older, and they are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injury among older adults.

Most fatal falls occur in the home, especially for children and the elderly. Fall related death rates are higher among men than women and differ by race: white men have the highest death rate, followed by white women, black men and black women.

Falls are the most expensive injury to society, when one calculates hospital charges for all people who were injured in falls.


Prevention Strategies

  • Conduct home visits to assess the home environment (a well evaluated and field-tested strategy). The Home Safety Checklist is a great resource.
  • Promote home modification to eliminate hazards (such as slippery floors, loose rugs, poor lighting).
  • Distribute home safety supplies such as grab bars.
  • Review and monitor health status, including medication and alcohol use among the elderly.
  • Promote regular exercise, particularly walking.
  • Collect and analyze data, and support new prevention efforts.
  • Provide age-appropriate counseling by primary care providers.
  • Consider promoting osteoporosis screening for women over age 65 and others with risk factors.
  • The Check For Safety list and Tips in Preventing Falls Among Seniors are literature that can be shared directly with people at risk for falls.

    Strategies especially appropriate to prevent falls among infants and young children include these:

  • Use stair gates
  • Supervise children using walkers
  • Don't leave infants/children unattended on changing tables
  • Place bars on the lower half of windows at the second story and above

Links

(Search these sites for information related to the prevention of Falls)

*There may be links on this site that are external to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The MDH is not responsible for the content of external sites, nor does it endorse or guarantee the services or information described or offered on external sites.

Brain Injury Association: This national organization's website includes a prevention section with brochures for different age groups that are particularly at risk for brain injury. Includes information on motor vehicle safety, falls, firearm injury, and alcohol. www.biausa.org/
Falls and Hip Fractures Among Older Adults: An overview of fall prevention tactics from the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention. www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/index.html
Injury and Violence Prevention Links: Access other sites that are related to injury and violence prevention. www.health.state.mn.us/injury/links.cfm
Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance: Learn about statewide resources for brain injury survivors, including support groups and educational opportunities. www.braininjurymn.org/
Minnesota Safety Council: Features prevention tips for work, home, play, on the roadway, and kids, including poison prevention. www.mnsafetycouncil.org/home.cfm


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