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Preventing falls - Stay On Your Feet

This section discusses why preventing falls is important, what can be done to prevent falls, and how Queensland Stay On Your Feet® can help.

Why is preventing falls and minimising the harm caused by falls important?

Falls have significant physical and emotional impacts on older peopleAt least one in four older people have a fall each year. Over 40% have multiple falls and over 30% of those that fall require medical attention as a result 214. The rate of falls is even higher for older people living in residential aged care 73. Due to our ageing population, the number of hip fractures in Australia is expected to double by 2026 and increase fourfold by 2051, based on current incidence rates 216.

Our population is ageing and growingAs the population ages, falls and fall related injury are a major health issue for health systems throughout the developed world. This is particularly important for Queensland because our population is ageing, growing rapidly and is projected to continue to grow. In the next 20 to 50 years, the number of people aged 65 years and older in Queensland is expected to more than triple, and increase as a proportion of the total population. In 2007, one in eight people in Queensland are aged 65 years or older. By 2051, it is projected that one in four Queenslanders will be aged 65 years or older. The issue of falls will only grow as the population ages.

Hospital costs are projected to quadrupleTotal hospital costs for falls were assessed in 2001 as $54 million. These costs are projected to quadruple in the next 40 to 50 years 3. Taking into account all costs including general practitioners, residential aged care facilities, specialists and pharmacy, the projected costs are set to increase to $320 million by 2051 3. The number of falls in our community has a major impact on our hospitals. Queensland already spends more than twice as much on the treatment of falls in older people than on victims of road traffic crashes. Unless effective preventative strategies are put in place, the cost of care and services associated with fall related injury in older people will absorb a significant proportion of the increased spending on the health of older people 3.

It's time to take action

A window of opportunity exists in which to act to reduce falls and fall-related injuries among older people. If additional efforts to reduce falls in this age group are not comprehensively implemented before 2017 (given that this is when 15 % of the Queensland population are expected to be aged 65 years and over), the total cost of treatment will rise to a point that is likely to make investment in prevention difficult once the demographic shift occurs (Moller, 2003). Moller (2003) also estimates that by 2051 more than 500 additional hospital beds and 850 nursing home places will be needed as a result of falls in older people.

We need to act now by taking a collaborative and coordinated approach to preventing falls. This can be achieved by building on the work already undertaken in the community, encouraging the uptake of physical activity, good nutrition 36 and a range of other protective strategies at a population and individual level. To stop older people from falling and to minimise the impact of any falls that do happen, there are a range of important evidence based strategies including:

  • identifying what caused the fall (risk factors)
  • identifying what can be done to prevent or reduce falls from occurring (protective factors)
  • identifying how to minimise any damage that may result from a fall (eg. hip protectors or softer flooring)
  • identifying the best way to rehabilitate a person after a fall.

To be successful in preventing falls in older people, a range of issues need to be addressed including:

  • issues that affect the general older population eg. inactivity
  • individual issues eg. health conditions and behaviours
  • the injury event itself
  • the environment
  • the health, social and belief systems in our society.

How Queensland Stay On Your Feet® can helpQueensland Stay On Your Feet® has developed evidence-based resources to help seniors stay healthy and active and assist health professionals to develop, implement and evaluate falls prevention initiatives in their local community.

book reference image Seniors can find out more about how to avoid falling by staying healthy and active
book reference image Health professionals can find out more about risk factors, risk screening and what works to prevent fallsbook reference image Health professionals can learn how to run a falls prevention initiative by using the Stay On Your Feet® Toolkit
book reference image Download Queensland Stay On Your Feet® resources

Last updated: 13 July 2022