The PRAXIS Nexus The PRAXIS Nexus

Falls Prevention Awareness

Posted on September 22, 2016   |   

September is national Falls Prevention Awareness Month. This is particularly important for the COPD community, as research has shown that people with COPD are at increased risk for falls. One prospective study of falls in a sample of people with COPD aged 63-79 showed the following:

  • Forty percent of the sample experienced falls during the study (by comparison, 28 percent of the general older population experiences at least one fall annually).
  • Most of the falls reported happened indoors and during standing activities that required use of the upper body.
  • Loss of balance was the most frequently cited cause for falls (39 percent).
  • After adjusting for age, those with 1) more smoking pack years, 2) more comorbidities and 3) falls in the previous year were more likely to fall during the study.
  • For some analyses, the authors grouped their participants into three cohorts: frequent fallers (i.e., two or more falls during the 12-month study), fallers and non-fallers.
  • -- Fallers and frequent fallers were 1) more likely to have experienced a fall in the year prior, 2) to have comorbid conditions and 3) were less likely to be using supplemental oxygen at baseline.
  • --Fallers also endorsed questions indicating a higher fall risk on the FROP-Com, the Falls Risk for Older People—Community setting questionnaire.

How can we help people to prevent falls? The Fall Prevention Center of Excellence states that attention to three core areas is necessary:

  1. balance training and physical activity: activity and training to improve balance, gait and strength
  2. medical management: including medication and device management
  3. environmental/home modifications: including clearing obstructions or potential hazards in the home

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) has devoted a portion of their website to falls prevention. Summaries of evidence-based prevention programs can be found here.

NCOA has also published tips for older adults and family members to help prevent falls. You can access their fall prevent video here and view their 6 Steps to Prevent a Fall here.

What are you doing – as a provider, person with COPD or family member – to prevent falls?


This page was reviewed on March 3, 2020 by the COPD Foundation Content Review and Evaluation Committee


You need to login to comment.
  • The fitness center at my locale hospital is doing free balance exercise classes this Saturday to help raise awareness. You might want to check your local hospitals, fitness centers, etc. to see if there is something in your neighborhood today or this weekend.
  • Awesome idea -- thanks Clipper! Will you go to one of the balance classes in your area?
    • I hope too. I will be doing my normal Saturday work out first. They are going to be doing a yoga for balance class which sounds interesting.
    • That does sound interesting - let us know if you go! I would really like to take a class on strengthening for balance. I am going to see what's around here.
    • I will be sure to fill everyone in. I do hope you find something Kristen. I know my balance has improved since I've been exercising. I am a big fan of TRX straps also known as suspension training. They engage so many muscles at once, improve stability and balance as well. It is also easy to control the effort level from easy to difficult or as I once said to a trainer I was working with... you want me to do what!!!! If there is one in your area you might want to check it out. Just a thought.
    • LOL awesome. Thanks for the info, Clipper -- will google that!
    • I attended the Fall Prevention Awareness event this morning or at least parts of it. I did miss the two lectures: Medications (apparently dealing with dizziness as a side effect of meds) and Balance. To my surprise the one thing they did not do is run a session demonstrating balance exercises. I asked several times assuming I had misunderstood because it seemed so unimaginable to me. Not one demo of some simple balance exercises.

      I did do the chair yoga. I am not real sure what this had to do with balance but I did enjoy it, all the stretching was a great way for me to start the day. After the 30 min class I did talk to the instruction (a physical therapist at the center) about breathing exercises for COPD. Her recommendation was Fire Breathing. There are plenty of links on youtube if anyone is interested. Her comment was that this style of breathing exercises the diaphragm. I did it a bit with her and she is right, it is a real work out for your diaphragm. She also demonstrated Ujjayi Breath which was more relaxing, again plenty of links on youtube.

      In the main room they had various tables set up, a circuit or sorts; blood pressure, balance assessment, assistive devices (canes, walkers, etc), social work and home care, footwear, home safety, vision, and a final check out station. It was all pretty much what one would expect with the standard handouts.

      Among other things I did do the balance assessment test. At the end I had an evaluation with a physical therapists who reviewed my results. Her comments to me in a nutshell were; you are very low risk, you exercise a lot don't you? your strong legs and core give you excellent balance and stability. Whatever it is you are doing, keep doing it.

      Just one more reason for all of us to keep exercising, to keep pushing as best we can to be as strong as we can.
  • Thank you for sharing, fall safety is key for those of us aging, in particular Baby Boomers and if we have multiple chronic diseases. We don't realize how often they happen and how easy it is to prevent them. Talk to your healthcare team about a quick and easy Fall Assessment Test, I promise it is worth the time!
    • Some thoughts on preventing falls.
      1 - keep the path from bed bath lighted
      2 - Dressing; focus on what you are doing, I find that when putting on my pants or jockey's is when I'm most likely to tip. Thus I stand near a wall or furniture.
      3 - My skin Dr. prescribed a lotion for dry heels. Apply morning and night. Problem, the lotion became very slippery when wet. Hang on to something when entering shower. Why I bring this up, warning labels on the bottle cautioned me not to drink it... no mention of slip/fall. I brought this up with the Dr.
      4 - keep your path clear. I have a puppy, so I'm especially careful.

      The above article seemed to focus on balance, even if you have good balance, and you miss the pant leg, or the pet gets in the way... you could be going down.
      I would like to see other's comment on things we can all do beyond balance training.
  • The CDC also has a great program (STEADI) including website with materials for use and instructions for balance testing for professionals...great for pulmonary rehab.

  • Thanks to everyone for the excellent comments. Another thing I learned recently was to be extra careful around rugs; it is very easy for the ends to get caught up underfoot, triggering a fall. Not walking in socks can also help you to gain traction.
  • Here is a Joint Commission initiative aimed at preventing falls. There's a podcast, fact sheets, and free webinar on the use of their TST (targeted solutions tool) on fall prevention. The Commission shares the implementation outcomes from the seven health systems/hospitals who participated in the pilot earlier this year; their data show falls were reduced 35 percent during their participation.