Seniors’ Falls Prevention

Falls are the leading cause of injury‐related deaths and hospitalizations for BC seniors and due to an aging population, falls-related hospitalizations have been steadily increasing since 2000 for those aged 65 and over. When an older person falls, it can come at a devastating cost resulting in loss of mobility, a reduced quality of life and, in severe cases, death. The cost to the BC health system is also very high at more than $195 million in direct health care costs in 2009/2010.

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Quick Facts & Stats

Causes

  • Approximately 40% of fall-related hospital cases were due to hip fractures.

Occurrence

  • Each year more than 200,000 BC seniors will experience one or more falls,
resulting in more than 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 800 direct and indirect deaths.1
  • Falls are the most common cause of injury among BC seniors. Each year, one in three BC seniors (age 65+) experience at least one fall.2
  • Falls were the primary or secondary contributing cause for 12,006 hospital cases among seniors in 2009/2010.
  • The rate of fall related hip fractures is three times higher for seniors who live in institutional/residential facilities, compared with seniors in non-institutional/non-residential settings.3

Costs

  • In 2010, injuries from falls cost British Columbians over $195 million in direct health care costs.4
  • The number of bed days for fall-related hospitalizations is expected to increase from 162,562 in 2009/10 to 208,853 in 2018/2019.5 This would mean that an extra 127 beds per day would be needed in the province by 2018/2019.
  • When an older person falls, it can have an enduring and devastating impact, resulting in injury, loss of mobility, a reduced quality of life and, in severe cases, death.
  • Fifty percent of post hip fracture patients will not regain pre-injury ambulation status and require permanent use of a cane, walker or other mobility aid for walking.
  • Seniors with fall-related injuries tend to stay in hospital almost twice as long as seniors hospitalized for all other reasons.
  • The cost to the BC health system was more than $195 million in direct health care costs in 2009/2010).6
  • Of all average annual fall-related hospitalization costs among BC seniors between the years of 2005/06 and 2009/10, fall-related hip fractures accounted for 47%. The remaining 53% of fall-related hospitalization costs comprised of upper limb injuries (10%), head injuries (10%), abdomen, lower back, lumbar spine and pelvis injuries (12%), and all other fall-related injuries (21%).7

Prevention

Many falls in older adults can be prevented and there are proven interventions and programs that can reduce the physical and financial costs associated with seniors’ falls – see resources below.

Researchers at BCIRPU have recently launched the Elder Safety Program (ESP), a newly adapted fall and fire prevention program for Elders living on reserve in British Columbia and receiving home support services. Developed in partnership with the four Saanich, BC First Nation Bands (Tsawout, Tsartlip, Tseycum, Pauquachin), North and Central Saanich, and Victoria Fire Departments, Beacon Community Services, and Saanich First Nations Adult Care Society, the ESP Checklist and Action Plan was adapted for use in First Nations communities from the Strategies and Actions for Independent Living (SAIL) program, which is a comprehensive fall prevention program for home support service providers in BC.

The goal of this project is to create a critical mass of trained home support leaders who will be able to train their local home support providers to implement a fall and fire prevention program to reduce risk among elders who receive home support services and are living on First Nation reserves. This will be accomplished through the development and implementation of a train-the-trainer education program for home support leaders who will be provided with the background and resources necessary to train their home support staff and to oversee and monitor the success of the program.

Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week

Since 2007, each year in November, the BC Falls & Injury Prevention Coalition raises awareness of the risk of falls and fall prevention through Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week. For more information, please see the website.

Information & Resources

Resources for Caregivers & Healthcare Professionals

Featured Research

Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors (TIPS) Program

The Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors (TIPS) program is based at the Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. This program aims to test and develop technologies that prevent hip fractures and other fall-related injuries in older adults. For more information go to: www.sfu.ca/tips

Hip Protector Study (Fraser Health Authority)

The Hip Protector study is based with the Fraser Health Authority and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility. The study aims to determine the factors that influence hip-protector compliance and adherence among those aged 65 and older in acute, residential, or community care settings.

Walk the Talk Project (Centre for Hip Health and Mobility)

The Walk the Talk Project is a multi-sectoral collaboration of individuals aiming to ensure that social and built environments support healthy and independent lifestyles for older adults.

For more on Seniors’ Falls research & publications, go to our library »

  1. BC Ministry of Health. (2006). The evolution of seniors’ falls prevention in British Columbia. BC Ministry of Health: Victoria, BC.
  2. Extrapolated from Scott, V., Peck, S., & Kendall, P. (2004). Prevention of Falls and Injuries Among the Elderly. Ministry of Health Planning, British Columbia and Quantum Analyzer PEOPLE 34 Population Data.
  3. See footnote 2
  4. Extrapolated from Canadian Institute of Health Information Discharge Abstract Dataset and People 34, B.C. Stats, Service B.C., Ministry of Labour and Citizens’ Services, 2011 and Scott, V., Peck, S., & Kendall, P. (2004). Prevention of Falls and Injuries Among the Elderly.  Ministry of Health Planning, British Columbia.
  5. Scott, et al., 2010. A public health approach to fall prevention among older persons in Canada. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 26(4): 705-718
  6. Canadian Institute of Health Information Discharge Abstract Dataset
  7. Canadian Institute of Health Information Discharge Abstract Dataset