Resource Center / Health and Lifestyle / How to Make an Elderly Fall Risk Assessment

How to Make an Elderly Fall Risk Assessment

Learn the signs and risks of your senior loved one falling. Seniorly provides risk factors to watch for and how to take precautions for a fall.

By Emma Rodbro Updated on Jul 10, 2023
Reviewed by Nipun Chopra · Reviewed on Dec 15, 2022

The leading cause of death, injury and hospital admissions among the elderly are falls. In fact, each year, one out of three elderly people will experience a fall injury. Last year alone, more than 1.6 million older Americans visited the emergency room for fall-related injuries.

What are the signs that a loved one could be at risk for a fall? What can you do to help prevent one in the future?

Risk factors

Here are some common things to watch out for that can lead to falls.

  • Muscle weakness, particularly in the legs, can make your loved one more prone to falling; people with weak muscles tend to be most at risk.
  • Balance and gait (the way someone walks) are important to watch. Does your loved one need help walking? Are they reaching out for walls to balance themselves? Do they seem to be favoring one leg over the other? Does their stride seem inconsistent?
  • Do they have elevated or low blood pressure? The blood pressure drop that occurs when someone stands after prolonged sitting or sleeping can be dangerous. It may also be linked to certain medications or neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or diabetes.
  • Our reflexes are less precise as we get older. This can cause us to react more slowly when we lose balance, and we may not be able to catch ourselves in time to prevent a fall injury.
  • Worsening or undetected vision problems can also be a risk factor. 
  • Low levels of Vitamin D are linked to fall injuries.
  • Medication side effects can cause dizziness and loss of balance. The more medications you take, the more likely it is that you’re at risk of falling.
  • Confusion, even momentary, can lead to a fall. If you wake up in an unfamiliar environment and are unsure of where you are, your mind may not be clear enough to keep you steady on your feet. If your loved one is experiencing any level of dementia or memory loss, seek professional guidance on addressing these concerns prior to them experiencing a falling incident. 
  • Is there a family history of motor disorders such as Parkinson’s DiseaseAmyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)Multiple Sclerosis or Cerebellar Ataxia?

How to help prevent falls from happening

If you or your loved one is at risk for a fall, there are steps you can take to lower the likelihood of having one. An important first step is to begin a conversation about what puts them at risk and how to prevent a fall from happening in the future. 

Here are some additional tips:

  • Enlist the help of a healthcare provider.
    Together with a doctor, your loved one can assess fall risks and regulate medications if needed. The doctor can also suggest programs or services that can help them stay safe and healthy, such as physical therapy or strength-building exercises. Your physician may also recommend taking Vitamin D supplements. Your physician may also recommend additional testing if a family history of motor disorders is known.
  • Discuss their current health conditions. Is your loved one having difficulty managing their own health? Are they remembering to take their medications properly? Encourage them to speak openly with you and their doctor about any struggles they might be experiencing as they age.
  • Ask about their last eye checkup. If your loved one wears glasses, ask about the last time they had their prescription updated.
  • Notice how they’re walking or getting up. Is getting out of the chair becoming more difficult? Are they holding onto a wall, furniture or someone else while walking? These are all signs that it may be time to see a physical therapist; these sessions can help improve walking and balance through light exercise. Their therapist may also suggest the need for a cane or walker and provide guidance on how to use them properly.
  • Perform a safety assessment of the home. Increase lighting throughout their home, especially at staircases; additionally, make sure there are two secure rails on all stairways. Night-lights will help your loved ones prevent fall injuries at night. Install grab bars around bathroom toilets and in the shower; purchasing a shower chair and grip mat are also good ideas.
Ready to start your search?
written by:
Emma Rodbro

Emma Rodbro

Emma Rodbro is Seniorly’s Head of Product Experience & Operations. Emma’s passion for reducing social isolation in aging populations was undoubtedly influenced by her own experience as a teenager and spending time with her grandfather. Emma went on to earn her Bachelor or Arts in Public Health and Sociology from Brown University and holds a Master’s of Social Work from the University of California, Berkeley. When she’s not at work, Emma is a volunteer at DOROT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the challenges of an aging population.

To learn more about Seniorly's editorial guidelines, click here.

View other articles written by Emma

Reviewed by:
Nipun Chopra

Sign up for our Healthy Aging Handbook

Seniorly’s Senior Living experts created a comprehensive handbook to help people age happily while ensuring they love where they live. Enter your email address below to receive your copy and learn more about Healthy Aging and Senior Living.*

*By submitting your email address above, you consent to receive occasional email communications from Seniorly, including educational content and tips, newsletters, and other relevant updates and offerings. You can unsubscribe at any time and we will never sell or distribute your email address to a third party. You can view our Privacy Policy here.