OBJECTIVES: To study whether balance, function, and other health status indicators can predict serious fall related injury in elderly women living at home.
METHODS: In this prospective study, the authors took a random sample of 307 women aged 75 years and over (mean 80.8 years, response rate 74.5%), living in the community. Serious fall injuries which occurred over a period of during one year were recorded, together with baseline registrations of health, function, and tests of walking and balance.
RESULTS: In all, 155 women (50.5%) fell one or more times. One hundred and fifty six (51%) of the 308 falls resulted in a fall related injury, 74 (24%) in a serious fall related injury, and 40 falls (13%) resulted in fractures. The presence of rheumatic disorders, inability to rise from the floor, arthrosis of the hip, having had more than one fall during the one year follow up period, and an increased tendency to sway in the frontal plane when doing a calculation task were independent and significant predictors for serious fall related injury (fractures included). The independent predictors of fall induced fractures were experiencing more than one fall in the follow up period, cognitive impairment, and receiving care from professional or other.
CONCLUSION: The study suggests that rheumatic disorders and the inability to get up from lying on the floor were the strongest independent risk factors for serious fall related injury. Experiencing more than one fall in the follow up period and cognitive impairment are the strongest independent predictors for fall induced fractures. Age was not a significant predictor of serious fall related injury. Assessment of these markers is feasible in a clinical setting and is a useful way of identifying those who are at risk of serious fall related injuries.
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