Falls are a major public health concern. According to the CDC, more than one-third of adults 65 and older fall each year in the United States, and 20% to 30% of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries. Falls can exact a toll long after the initial injury, outranking chronic kidney disease, asthma, and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in terms of effects on disability-adjusted life years, according to a 2017 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study.
The physical therapy profession’s role in falls risk reduction and prevention is supported by a strong body of research. What we do works.
See how you score on this 8-question quiz on falls statistics and screening (scroll down for answers). Good luck!
1. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately how many Americans aged 65 and older experience a fall every year?
A. 1 in 3
B. 1 in 4
C. 1 in 5
D. 1 in 6
2. According to a clinical guideline statement from the APTA Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy (AGPT), what question should physical therapists (PTs) routinely ask older adult patients?
A. “What medications are you currently taking?”
B. “Are you experiencing feelings of dizziness?”
C. “Have you been diagnosed with diabetes?”
D. “Have you had any falls in the last 12 months?”
3. Between 2007 and 2016, death rates due to falls in the US increased by what percentage?
4. Authors of a 2012 study in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity studied a particular activity and found that adults who engaged in this activity had a reduced risk for falls. Which activity did researchers target?
B. Driving a car
D. Light household chores
5. A recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that the falls risk factor affecting the largest number of adults 65 and over is:
A. Visual impairments
B. Medication interaction
C. Home hazards
D. Vitamin D deficiency
6. A recent CDC study ranked US states according to older adult death rates due to falls in 2016. At 142.7 per 100,000 individuals, which state reported the highest death rate?
7. According to the CDC, among men and women aged 65 and older, which group has the highest rate of nonfatal falls, and which has the highest rate of fatal falls?
A. Men have the highest rates of both fatal and nonfatal falls.
B. Women have the highest rates of both fatal and nonfatal falls.
C. Women have higher rates of nonfatal falls; men have higher rates of fatal falls.
D. Men have higher rates of nonfatal falls; women have higher rates of fatal falls.
8. According to a survey of emergency department physicians in the US and Canada, the bathroom is the most risky location for a fall in the home among adults 65 and older, with 69% of home falls occurring in that space. Which area comes in second?
D. Living room
1. B – About 24% of older Americans fall each year—the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older Americans, according to the CDC.
2. D – There are of course many questions that may be appropriate for providers to ask (including some of the choices listed here), but the question that should never be skipped is whether the patient has experienced any falls in the past 12 months, according to the AGPT guidelines. Previous falls are 1 of the strongest falls risk factors, and should never be ignored.
3. D – Falls-related deaths rose by 31% between 2007 and 2016, according to the CDC. During the 10 years tracked in the study, falls-related deaths among US residents 65 and older rose from 18,334 to 29,668—in terms of rates of death from falls, that’s an increase from 47 per 100,000 to 61.6 per 100,000 in that age group. Deaths climbed by about 3% per year, according to the report.
4. A – In the study, researchers focused on gardening, and concluded that “gardeners reported significantly better balance and gait speed and had fewer chronic conditions and functional limitations than nongardners.” They believed the findings “suggest that gardening may be a potential activity to incorporate into future fall-prevention programs.”
5. C – Home hazards were the leader in terms of falls risk factors, but that isn’t to say other factors don’t come into play as well, say authors of the study.
6. D – According to the CDC, Wisconsin had the highest falls-related death rate among adults 65 and older, at 142.7 per 100,000. Authors aren’t sure of the reasons for the variance but suspect that the numbers might be related to demographic variables including differing proportions of older white adults in various states. Another possible explanation: the impact of who completes the death certificate.: According to the CDC researchers, a 2012 study showed that coroners reported 14% fewer deaths from falls than did medical examiners.
7. C – Women have higher rates for falls, but men have higher death rates related to falls, according to the CDC. Authors of the study speculate that the higher fatality rate “might have resulted from differences in the circumstances of a fall (e.g., from a ladder or while drinking), leading to more serious injuries.”
8. B – Caregiverstress.com reports that at 13%, bedrooms are the second-most-likely place for a fall, followed by kitchens and stairs.