Here we look at some of the more common causes for why older people fall, together with ways in which these risks can be reduced.

Many falls in older people happen for reasons that may be ‘avoidable’; for example, loose carpets or rugs that present a trip hazard, or insufficient lighting on a stairway. By carrying out a few simple checks you may be able help your relative make their home safer. You can find a complete checklist here (link) to help you reduce the risk of falls in the home.

A significant number of falls in older people occur during ‘transfers’. This is the term a healthcare professional such as an occupational therapist uses to describe the act of moving (or attempting to move) from one position to another. For example, going from:

  • sitting to a standing, such as getting out of a chair or bed
  • standing to a sitting, such as lowering down into a chair
  • sitting to another sitting position, such as moving from a toilet to a wheelchair, or vice versa.

Even though those movements and tasks may seem simple – and your relative may have recently performed them confidently – they can present a challenge when someone becomes less mobile or strong.

In many cases, transfers and other activities can be made easier and safer by the use of certain equipment, aids or technologies. Occupational therapists often have excellent knowledge of these products, and can advise the right solutions based on your relative's abilities and needs

Fall detector

If your relative is potentially at risk of falling, you might want to discuss using a fall detector so they can summon help should they fall. This can be quite simple and a sensor light comes on at a monitoring centre when a button is pressed.

Alternatively – or in addition – your relative may benefit from exercises to help improve their mobility, strength or balance. A physiotherapist can provide further advice.

More information

  • Financing home alterations: explains the options if you are concerned about funding adaptations to the home.
  • Preventing falls: how to find an occupational therapist or physiotherapist in your relative's area.
  • Frank O’s story: Frank adapted his mother-in-law’s home to reduce the risk of falls.

Page last reviewed: 31 January 2016
Next review due: 31 August 2017