Falls and Older Adults
This handout is about falls in older adults. Falls can happen for many reasons and it is important to be
aware of your risk.
Risk Increases with Age
Many people have a friend or relative who has fallen or have fallen themselves. If you or
someone you know has fallen, you are not alone. More than 1 in 3 people age 65 years or older
falls each year and the risk of falling and fall-related injury rises with age.
Check Your Risk for Falling
If you said “Yes” to any of the above, please keep reading for facts about falls and why they
Please circle “Yes” or “No” for each statement below.
Yes (2) No I have fallen in the last 6 months.
Yes (2) No I use or have been advised to use a cane or walker to get around safely.
Yes (1) No Sometimes I feel unsteady when I am walking.
Yes (1) No I steady myself by holding onto furniture when walking at home.
Yes (1) No I am worried about falling.
Yes (1) No I need to push with my hands to stand up from a chair.
Yes (1) No I have some trouble stepping up onto a curb.
Yes (1) No I often have to rush to the toilet.
Yes (1) No I have lost some feeling in my feet.
Yes (1) No I take medicine that sometimes makes me feel light-headed or more tired
Yes (1) No I take medicine to help me sleep or improve my mood.
Yes (1) No I often feel sad or depressed.
Add up the number of points for each “yes” answer. If you scored 4 points or
more, you may be at risk for falling. Discuss this checklist with your doctor.
Things to Think About Why It Matters/Facts About Falls
I have fallen in the last 6 months. People who have fallen once are likely to
I use or have been advised to use a cane or
walker to get around safely.
People who have been advised to use a
cane or walker may already be more likely
Sometimes I feel unsteady when I am walking. Unsteadiness or needing support while
walking are signs of poor balance.
I steady myself by holding onto furniture when
walking at home.
This is also a sign of poor balance.
I am worried about falling. People who are worried about falling are
more likely to fall.
I need to push with my hands to stand up from
This is a sign of weak leg muscles, a
major reason for falling.
I have some trouble stepping up onto a curb. This is also a sign of weak leg muscles.
I often have to rush to the toilet. Rushing to the bathroom, especially at
night, increases your chance of falling.
I have lost some feeling in my feet. Numbness in your feet can cause stumbles
and lead to falls.
I take medicine that sometimes makes me feel
light-headed or more tired than usual.
Side effects from medicines can
sometimes increase your chance of falling.
I take medicine to help me sleep or improve
These medicines can sometimes increase
your chance of falling.
I often feel sad or depressed. Symptoms of depression, such as not
feeling well of feeling slowed down, are
linked to falls.
Falls Lead to Injury
Each year, more than 1.6 million older U.S.
adults go to emergency departments for
injuries from falls. Falls are the number one
cause of broken bones, hospital admissions,
loss of independence and death from injury
for people age 65 and older.
Hip fractures are one of the most serious
injuries from falling. They are a leading
cause of death, disability and loss of
independence among older adults. Only
50% of older adults who break a hip are able
to return home or live on their own. Some
people need long-term care even after
treatment and rehab.
Fear of Falling
Many older adults are afraid of falling. This
fear becomes more common as people age,
even for those who have not fallen. It may
lead older people to avoid activities like
walking, shopping or taking part in social
events. If you are worried about falling, talk
with your health care team. You may be
referred to a physical therapist (PT).
A PT can show you how to help your
balance, strengthen your muscles, improve
your walking and build your walking
confidence. Getting rid of your fear of
falling can help you to stay active, healthy
and prevent future falls.
Tell Your Health Care Team If You Fall
If you fall, be sure to discuss the fall at your
next visit with your health care team, even if
you are not hurt. Falls do not “just happen,”
and people do not fall just because they get
older. Many causes of falls can be treated or
Falls can be a sign of a new medical
problem, such as diabetes or a drop in your
blood pressure when you stand up. They
can also be a sign of problems with your
medicine or eyesight. After a fall, your
doctor may suggest changes in your
medicine or your eyewear prescription. Your
doctor may also suggest physical therapy,
use of a walking aid, or other ideas to help
prevent future falls, which can help you feel
more confident in your abilities.
Ways to Prevent Falls
Exercise will help improve your balance and
strengthen your muscles helps to prevent
falls. Not wearing bifocals or multifocal
glasses when you walk, especially on stairs,
will make you less likely to fall. You can
also make your home safer by removing
loose rugs, adding handrails to stairs and
hallways, and making sure you have good
lighting in dark areas.
Health Facts for You “Home Safety-
Preventing Falls” (HFFY # 6626) offers
some tips for preventing falls at home.
Falls are not a usual part of life, even as a
person gets older. You can take action to
prevent falls. Your health care team can
help you decide what changes will help.
Source: NIH Senior Health: National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging and
National Library of Medicine 2013. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention STEADI
Toolkit 2013. Use of information with permission.
Reviewed by: University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics: Geriatric Falls Clinic.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6625