Falls Prevention Awareness
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:
- balance training and physical activity: activity and training to improve balance, gait and strength
- medical management: including medication and device management
- 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