Three types of falls in older adults and how to manage them

Posted on: 7/12/2021

Choosing what measures to take to protect your loved one from the effects of a fall can often be difficult, depending on how and why the fall has occurred.

Below, we’ve explained the three different types of falls and how you can help reduce the risk of future falls and further injury.

  1. Accidental falls

Accidental falls, as the name suggests, happen when someone accidentally falls, such as by slipping on a wet floor or tripping over a hazard.

Often, when an accidental fall occurs, the individual will be classed as low risk because measures can more easily be put in place to reduce the risk of future falls.

Measures include things like:

  • Removing clutter and trip hazards from the floor, such as trailing wires or loose carpets.
  • Ensuring there is good lighting within the home, particularly at night. This might mean introducing motion-activated night lights.
  • Making items on shelves and in cupboards easily accessible to avoid the need to reach.
  • Installing grab rails and handrails in areas where accidental falls might occur, such as in the bathroom when the floor is wet.
  • Wearing sensible footwear that fits well and has good grip on the soles

Putting measures like these in place will help your loved one to move around safely, therefore reducing their risk of accidentally falling again.

  1. Physiological – anticipated

These are falls that are anticipated due to particular risk factors that increase the likelihood of that person falling over.

Common risk factors that lead to anticipated falls include:

  • Weak muscles and/or balance problems caused by certain medical conditions.
  • Vision and/or hearing problems.
  • Taking multiple medications or taking medications with known side effects related to falls, such as dizziness and light headedness.
  • Living with dementia, which can lead to confusion and disorientation.
  • Bladder and bowel conditions, which lead to rushing to get to the toilet.

When falls are anticipated, it’s recommended that you support your loved one by putting similar measures in place as for accidental falls.

You should also help them to address the risk factors to try and reduce the likelihood of them falling.

For example, for:

  • Weak muscles and balance problems, encourage your loved one to do regular strength and balance exercises.
  • Vision and/or hearing problems, ensure your loved one is going for regular check-ups to make sure their prescription is up-to-date, and their hearing aid is working correctly.
  • Medication-related problems, speak to their GP about alternatives that won’t increase their risk of falls.
  • Dementia, ensure their home environment is as safe as possible and that they rarely leave home without assistance from you or other friends and family.
  • Bladder and bowel conditions, make accessing the bathroom as easy as possible for your loved one and try to encourage more regular drinking habits – little and often. 
  1. Physiological – unanticipated

Unanticipated falls often happen as a result of a health condition or other factor, to a person that would otherwise be classed as low risk.

Common reasons for unanticipated falls include:

  • Seizures
  • Fainting or passing out
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack

Whilst measures can be put in place to protect your loved one if they do experience an unanticipated fall again, it can be difficult to prevent them altogether.

After an unanticipated fall, in particular, you might like to consider assistive technology that will send an alert if your loved one has a fall when they are alone, to ensure that they can get the help they need.

This will provide you both with peace of mind that help will be available in the event of a fall, as well as allowing your loved one to continue living independently.

For more information on the types of assistive technology available, give us a call on 03333 204 999 or drop an email to us at