In the study, a team of researchers installed video cameras in an assisted living facility in order to monitor residents and staff around the clock. In sum, they caught 227 falls on tape, the majority of which were the result of the resident simply losing his or her balance. However, the videos also showed the previously-unknown causes of the residents’ losses of balance.

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One main cause was the improper use of a walker or wheelchair, or the failure to use such a tool altogether. About 75 percent of the residents reported that they used a walker or wheelchair on a regular basis, but only 20 percent of that group that suffered an accidental fall were using their walker or wheelchair when the fall took place. Researchers say that many of those incidents occurred during “transition periods,” which are when residents move from their walker or wheelchair to a stationary chair. This indicates that facility staff may need to be more hands-on during these transitions, or develop new systems for moving residents between devices.

Other causes of accidental falls were side effects of medication and common physiological ailments that routinely affect the elderly population, such as muscle weakness and impaired vision. Facility staff need to be more aware that falls are a side effect of these conditions and work proactively to prevent them.

Source: NPR, “Loss of balance is leading cause of elderly falls,” Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Oct. 17, 2012

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