Purpose: To identify modifiable risk factors associated with the transition from non-faller to faller in community-dwelling older adults.
Method: A prospective study design was used. Adults aged 60 to 90 years (n=90, mean age=79.7 years, 63% male) who did not report falling in the past year were included. A comprehensive geriatric assessment was performed at study baseline, and daily falls data were collected monthly for 1 year. Multivariable regression using a modified Poisson model on fall status (yes/no) and a Cox proportional hazards model for time to first fall were used to identify risk factors.
Results: Twenty-four people (27%) fell. Modifiable risk factors were present in 67% of study participants, and fall risk increased as the number of risk factors increased. The most common activities performed prior to falling were walking and using stairs. Fall risk doubled ([relative risk=2.00; 95%CI: 1.13–3.56) per unit increase in the number of risk factors (lower-extremity weakness, balance impairment, and ≥4 prescription medications).
Conclusions: Among older adults who were self-reported non-fallers, falls were a common outcome, and modifiable risk factors were present in the majority of the sample. The absence of a fall history does not rule out the need to screen for other risk factors for falls. Functional lower-extremity weakness, balance impairment as measured by the Berg Balance Scale (score <50), and number of risk factors were independent predictors for the transition in status from non-faller to faller. Further research is required to define effective interventions to prevent first falls.