Understanding and Preventing Falls: Perspectives of First Responders and Older Adults

Ruth Ramsey, Department of Occupational Therapy, Dominican University of California
Anita Diep Hin, Dominican University of California
Chelsea C. Prado, Dominican University of California
Monica Fernandez, Dominican University of California


Aims: To identify characteristics of older adults who contact first responders after a fall, understand experiences of fallers and first responders regarding fall incidents, and explore strategies for fall prevention education and intervention.

Method: In this mixed-methods study 471 fall incident reports were quantitatively analyzed for demographic and fall incident information, and qualitative data were collected and analyzed from focus groups and telephone interviews with older adult fallers and first responders.

Results: The majority of fallers were female (62%), the average age was 81, and nearly half (47%) were alone during the fall incident. Polypharmacy was present for a majority of the older adult fallers, with 47% taking five or more medications. Mechanical (57%) and medical (29%) factors were primary contributors to falls. Fallers reported feeling increased vulnerability, depression, frustration, and self-blame after falling. First responders reported challenges communicating with older adult fallers and with care facility staff when assisting residents who had fallen.

Conclusions: Older adults who fall may benefit from services and supports from first responders and health professionals to help reduce fall risk and maintain independence despite falling.