WEDNESDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Incorrect weight shifting is the most common cause of falls in elderly people, according to researchers who analyzed videos of actual falls among seniors.
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The videos of 227 falls suffered by 130 people -- taken from closed-circuit television systems in public areas of two long-term care facilities for the elderly in British Columbia, Canada -- offer real-life examples of the causes and circumstances of falls.
The study is the first of its kind and could help improve understanding and prevention of falls in elderly people, the researchers said.
Forty-one percent of falls in the videos were caused by incorrect weight shifting, where the person shifted their body weight and caused their center of gravity to move outside their base of support, the investigators found.
Other common causes of falls included trips or stumbles (21 percent), hits or bumps (11 percent), loss of support (11 percent), and collapse (11 percent). In one-quarter of the cases where seniors tripped, the incident occurred because their foot got caught on a table or chair, which suggests that facility staff members need more awareness about this type of hazard.
Falls caused by slipping have been the focus of most laboratory-based studies of falls among older adults, yet this new study, published online Oct. 16 in The Lancet, found that slipping accounted for just 3 percent of falls.
"Prevention of falls in elderly people needs to be a public health priority. However, up to now, the general scarcity of reliable information on falls in elderly people has hindered the development of safer environments for older people and fall prevention programs," study author Stephen Robinovitch, of Simon Fraser University, said in a journal news release.
"Our study provides long-missing objective evidence of the causes and circumstances of falls in elderly people, and should open up new avenues for the prevention of fall injury in long-term care," Robinovitch noted.
Falls are the most frequent cause of accidental injuries in people 65 and older, accounting for 90 percent of hip and wrist fractures and 60 percent of head injuries in elderly people, the study authors pointed out in the news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, Oct. 16, 2012