Accidental falls is the most common type of accident among elderly people and result in high costs both in terms of resources and human suffering.
The risk of falling increases with age and so does the severity of the injury following the accident.
Accidental falls do not only cause increased levels of poor health and mortality but also lasting functional impairments and an increased need for care.
– My study showed that the elderly have very different perceptions on falling, says Dorte Høst, referring to her Master of Public Health thesis “Older people’s perception of and coping with falling, and motivation for fall-prevention initiatives”.
She works as a prevention consultant at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen.
The elderly accepted the problem of falling and getting
hurt as a consequence of getting old.
At the same time falls were embarrassing, and could be explained. Some experienced the actual fear of falling as dominating.
– They did however not perceive falling as a risk factor that should be taken into consideration and attended to, but coped with the situation by restricting movements or dropping activities, adds Dorte Høst.
When demands for preventing falls exceeded the elderly’s resources and capabilities they sought help from their GP as well as from people in their environment, and thereby gained support for their needs and wishes.
– Regarding future fall-prevention initiatives, it is important to target the needs of the individual and make sure not to generalize on how the elderly perceive the risk of falling, states Dorte Høst.
The study also showed that doctors and a patient’s surrounding can play an important part in prevention work.

Title: Older people’s perception of and coping with falling, and motivation for fall-prevention initiatives
Author: Dorte Høst, prevention consultant, physiotherapist, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark
Supervisor: Ina Borup, Associate professor, DrPH, NHV

Monica Bengtson, Information Officer, Nordic School of Public Health +46 (0)31-69 39 52