Falls in older people in geriatric care settings : predisposing and precipitating factors

Sammanfattning: Falls and their consequences are a major health problem in the older population, increasing their immobility, morbidity and mortality. This thesis focuses on older people living in geriatric care settings, frail older people who are most prone to suffer falls. The aim was to study predisposing and precipitating factors associated with falls in older people with or without cognitive impairment. In a cross-sectional study with a one-year prospective follow-up for falls 63% of the 83 residents suffered 163 falls and 65% of the fallers fell more than once. The antidepressants selective serotonine reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), impaired vision and being unable to use stairs independently were the factors most strongly associated with sustaining falls. Acute diseases were judged to have precipitated 32 % of the falls and drug side effects 9%. In another cross-sectional study with a one-year follow-up for falls, including 199 residents, previous falls and treatment with antidepressants (mainly SSRIs) were found to be the most important predisposing factor for falls. Acute disease was judged to be the precipitating factor alone or in combination, in 39% of the falls, medical drugs in 8%, external factors such as obstacles in 8% and other conditions both related to the individual and the environment, such as misinterpretation, misuse of roller walkers or mistakes made by the staff were judged to have precipitated 17% of the falls. In a population-based cross-sectional study including 3604 residents in geriatric care settings more than 8% sustained a fall at least once during the preceding week. A history of falls, the ability to get up from a chair, the need for a helper when walking, pain, cognitive impairment, use of neuroleptics and use of antidepressants were all associated with falls in multivariate analyses. In the subgroup of people with cognitive impairment (2008 residents) more than 9% had sustained a fall at least once during the preceding week. As for the whole population, being able to get up from a chair, previous falls, needing a helper when walking with the addition of hyperactive symptoms were the factors independently associated with falls. In a study with a one-year prospective follow up for falls, including 439 residents in residential care facilities, 63% sustained 1354 falls, corresponding to an incidence rate of 3.5 falls / person year. Thirty-three percent of the falls and 37% of the injurious falls occurred during the night (9pm-6am). There were significantly higher fall rates in the evening and in January, April, May, November and December. There were no associations between fall rates and any of the weather parameters studied. In conclusion falls and fall-related injuries in older people in geriatric care settings are common. Both predisposing and precipitating factors contribute to the risk of falling. Addressing precipitating factors for falls seems to be important in an individualised preventive strategy among older people in geriatric care settings.