Effectiveness and implementation aspects of interventions for preventing falls in elderly people in long-term care facilities: a systematic review of RCTs

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2011 Jul;12(6):410-25. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2010.07.018. Epub 2010 Oct 20.


Objectives: There is extensive literature on interventions to prevent or reduce falls in elderly people. These findings, however, were based mainly on studies of community-living persons. The primary aim of the present study was to report the effectiveness and implementation aspects of interventions aimed at reducing falls in elderly residents in long-term care facilities: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Data sources: MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and hand searching of reference lists of included RCTs.

Review methods: RCTs that assessed fall incidents (falls, fallers, recurrent fallers, fall-related injuries) among elderly residents in long-term care facilities were included in this narrative review. Two independent reviewers abstracted data: general program characteristics (setting, population, intervention program) and outcomes, detailed program characteristics (assessment, intervention content, individually tailored, multidisciplinary), and implementation aspects (feasibility, implications for practice). The CONSORT Statement 2001 Checklist was used regarding the quality of reporting RCTs.

Results: Twenty trials met the inclusion criteria. Seven trials, 4 multifactorial and 3 monofactorial, showed a significant reduction in the fall rate, the percentage of recurrent fallers, or both the fall rate and the percentage of persons sustaining femoral fractures. The positive effective programs were as follows: a comprehensive structured individual assessment with specific safety recommendations; a multidisciplinary program including general strategies tailored to the setting and strategies tailored specifically to residents; a multifaceted intervention including education, environmental adaptation, balance, resistance training, and hip protector; calcium plus vitamin D supplementation; vitamin D supplementation; a clinical medication review; and a multifactorial intervention (fall risk evaluation, specific and general interventions).

Conclusions: In general, because of the limited number of included trials, the evidence is inconclusive for multifaceted and single interventions in long-term care facilities. Most of the reviewed studies did not find a significant positive effect on fall incidents. However, our data support the conclusions of Gillespie et al. that multifactorial interventions in long-term care populations seem more likely to be beneficial. However, single interventions (eg, targeting vitamin D insufficiency) can be effective. Furthermore, a careful approach is needed as programs to prevent falls in these settings may be ineffective or even may have adverse effects. This may occur especially when a program is not feasible for the setting in which it is implemented.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Program Evaluation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Residential Facilities*
  • Safety Management / methods*
  • Safety Management / organization & administration