Main Factors That May Cause Falls In The Elderly

by | Aug 31, 2022 | Blog

Falls may be a common occurrence in the elderly as they are more susceptible to falling. A fall for the elderly can be a very dangerous event; they may get broken bones (due to their bone’s fragility), bad bruising, cuts that heal slower, limbs easily dislocated and a lower pain threshold, all due to the ageing process and/or disease conditions.

As such, it is important to avoid falls in the elderly because a fall may create complications such as expensive medical bills, time away from loved ones due to long hospital stays and the risk of nosocomial infections (infections acquired due to long hospital stay). Your elderly loved one may also develop a fear or anxiety after experiencing a fall that hurt them very badly. They may be afraid to walk again, which may further lead to circulation and mobility complications

Many times persons do not think about some of the ways they can prevent falls in the elderly, and that is where we can help. Here are some factors that may cause falls in the elderly and ways to prevent, reduce or control these factors.


Decreased vision is a usual occurrence in the elderly, but their relatives may not consider this factor when ascertaining what may cause them to fall. If your elderly relative cannot see clearly, they may trip over an object they did not see or miss a step, which may cause them to tumble. Be sure they regularly get their eyes checked by an optician and keep any eye clinic appointments.

Muscle Weakness

If your elderly relative has a medical condition that limits their movement, they may develop weakness in their muscles due to decreased use. Ever heard of the saying “use it or lose it”? Well, decreased use of a muscle may cause weakness, and that weakness may cause limbs to “give way” while walking. Ask your doctor if you can do Range of Motion exercises with your relative to improve muscularity.


If your loved one’s visual acuity has decreased, then what may have been a sufficiently lit area may no longer be adequate. If there is not enough lighting, they may fall. Talk to your relative and get feedback on whether the lighting is good enough for them.


Clutter may be in the way of the walking route for your relative and they may try to manoeuvre around it and, having maybe decreased spatial judgement or not being nimble enough to walk around the object that is in their way, they may fall. They may not ask for help because they don’t want to be a bother, or they overestimate their ability now that they are older. It may seem a simple enough task, but now they are older, simple may be very challenging. Keep the areas they usually walk clear and free from clutter.

Pain in Joints

Imagine walking along or doing an activity and you suddenly get a jolt of pain. It may cause you to off balance a bit with the unexpected surge right? Well, for us we may recover an off-balance but for the elderly, a sudden onset of painful joints, especially while walking, may cause a fall. Ensure they attend any physiotherapy or occupational therapy appointments and give all pain medication on time, as prescribed, to avoid sudden onset of pain.

Ear Problems

The vestibular system within the inner ear is responsible for balance and equilibrium. As such, any issues with this structure may cause your relative to lose balance and fall. Make sure they get regular check-ups with their doctor and do not leave out a thorough ear exam.

Shortened Spine/Osteoporosis

In the ageing process, organs go through degeneration, weakening tissues in the process. Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones in the spine, as such the spine bends and shortens, shifting the centre of gravity, causing the person to hunch over at varying degrees. Because of these changes, the elderly may lose balance, as their head is no longer in line with their centre of gravity. You may need to get walking aids for persons with a hunched over physique.

Disease Condition

Some diseases may make your elderly relative more susceptible to falls. For instance, Parkinson’s disease may cause some impairment in your relative’s walk – a shuffled gait – that may cause them to trip on uneven or unsuitable floor surfaces.

Slip and Trip Hazards

Always be mindful of cords and water spillage etc on the ground. If you are doing some work with tools, don’t forget to tape down loose cords and keep the area free from water if your elderly relative may walk along that path. Also, thoroughly clean walkways from moss as they may slip on the moss while walking.


Due to the ageing process, the elderly may get more fatigued faster than we do. Taking into consideration the length of time it takes for them to get fatigued while out walking and doing errands is essential to prevent a fall due to fatigue. Be considerate and only plan a certain number of tasks per day to ensure your elderly relative does not become fatigued and fall from exhaustion.

Lack of Rails

Placing rails in areas such as the washroom may be a good idea as the ageing process may bring on a condition called Orthostatic Hypotension, which is a drop in blood pressure when changing positions (eg. from sitting to standing). A simple task as getting up from the toilet may make them feel lightheaded if they were sitting on the toilet for an extended period – the legs, bent by the knees in that sitting position would have reduced blood flow back to the heart. Therefore, when they do stand, the blood pressure is significantly lower which may cause light-headedness and a possibility of falling. A rail in the toilet area can allow them to hold on to something and steady themselves for a moment to feel better again.

Elevated Beds

If you have a mechanical bed for your elderly relative, always leave it in the lowest position when no one is around. Your elderly relative, trying to be independent, may attempt to come off the bed and, due to flexibility or mobility issues may not be able to fully complete the task. The higher the bed is, the more damage done if they fall off. Keeping the bed low is for their own safety in case they forgot you told them not to come off on their own or if they have difficulty while trying to come off the bed on their own.

These simple factors are just some of the ways in which to prevent your loved ones from falling. Remember, falls are a horrible experience for your elderly loved one. It is unnecessary pain, trauma, risk to wellness and inconvenience to the family on a whole. We hope these tips are useful for you and your family. Share with someone who you think may benefit from this.

Photograph by Danie Franco