In this section, you will learn about the impact of falls on the patient, the family, and the health care facility. This information further underscores the importance of the prevention of falls, for you and your patients.


Often older adults feel that falls are the result of an accident when in most cases the cause is preventable. A patient who falls is likely to feel less confident and hopeless, become depressed and more socially isolated, and experience a loss of quality of life and physical functioning as a result.

Impact on the Patient

Consider the following facts about how falls affect the elderly.

  • Falls are the leading cause of a move to skilled-care facilities, often long term.
  • 20-30% of those who fall suffer moderate to severe physical injuries including breaks, cuts, and bruising.
  • Falls often result in long-term pain.
  • Falls involving a hip fracture lead to 10-15% reduction in life expectancy.
  • Older adults who fall are likely to worry about the future and loss of independence.
  • Loss of self-esteem and mobility leads to decreased activity and eventually inability to perform activities of daily living.
  • Because of decreased confidence and physical functioning, patients who fall are likely to fall again.
  • Elderly who fall are less likely to take part in beneficial activities like exercising or socializing because of a fear of getting hurt again and the embarrassment of a fall.

Impact on the Family

The effects of a fall go beyond the individual and reach into the lives of family members and friends. A fall can result in:

  • The financial obligation of health care and recovery: increasing the family's worry about the health, safety, and mortality of elder family member
  • Increased time spent on care of the older adult: becoming overprotective of the family member, limiting their activities and decision-making ability

Impact on the System

Collectively, falls in older adults are a major burden on the health care system, affecting the cost and availability of care for every American.

  • The elderly are hospitalized five times more often for fall-related injuries than any other injury.
  • Falls lead to increased use of emergency room resources.
  • Falls lead to increased costs from hospital admissions and extended stays.
  • Falls cost Americans about $100 billion every year.

Take the Quick Check or read a transcript.

After you have completed this section, please go to the Scenario Challenge, which you can access in the left-hand navigation.

© 2004, The Trustees of Indiana University