Falls and fall prevention in the nursing home

Clin Geriatr Med. 1996 Nov;12(4):881-902.


The mean incidence of falls in nursing homes is 1.5 falls per bed per year (range 0.2-3.6). The most common precipitating causes include gait and balance disorders, weakness, dizziness, environmental hazards, confusion, visual impairment, and postural hypotension. The most important underlying risk factors for falls and injuries include some of these same items as well as others: leg weakness, gait and balance instability, poor vision, cognitive and functional impairment, and sedating and psychoactive medications. A focused history and physical examination after a fall can usually determine the immediate underlying cause(s) of the fall and contributory risk factors. Many strategies for fall prevention have been tried with mixed success. The most successful take into account the multifactorial causes of falls, and include interventions to improve strength and functional status, reduce environmental hazards, and allow staff to identify and monitor high-risk residents. Regular evaluations in the nursing home can help identify patients at high risk who can then be targeted for specific treatment and prevention strategies. Strategies that reduce mobility through use of restraints have been shown to be more harmful than beneficial and should be avoided. A number of promising fall prevention strategies, involving both specific quality assurance programs and technologic devices, are being evaluated currently.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Causality
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Facility Environment
  • Homes for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Nursing Homes*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Restraint, Physical