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A better picture of falls prevention

October 25, 2012
by Pamela Tabar, Associate Editor
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When trying to understand what causes seniors to fall, a video is worth a million words.

Canadian researchers placed video cameras in the dining rooms, hallways and other group spaces of two British Columbia long-term care facilities. If a fall occurred, the video was retained to study what had happened immediately prior to the fall.

The study, conducted from 2007-2010, examined 227 falls. The majority of falls (41 percent) were caused by incorrect weight shifting, followed by tripping or stumbling (21 percent). The least frequent cause (only 3 percent) was slipping on the walking surface.

Knowing what activity was taking place immediately before the fall can provide caregivers with additional insights on resident safety, and may help improve the design of sensor-based fall monitoring systems. A third of the falls occurred while the resident was walking or standing.  Asking a resident to stay seated doesn’t guarantee their safety—12 percent of the falls recorded by the researchers occurred while the resident was sitting down.

The study was published in the October issue of The Lancet.

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