Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


An older adult falling can have an incredibly harmful impact on health

It’s common wisdom that the best place for seniors to live out their final years is in the comfort of their own home. The challenge for those who work in our health-care system is providing the care and attention seniors need at home, while maintaining the dignity and safety they deserve.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), falls account for more than half of all injuries among Canadians 65 years of age and over. The federal agency found one-third of Canadians who live in the community fall once per year, and half of these seniors will fall more than once. Twenty per cent of seniors’ injury related deaths can be linked to a fall, PHAC says.

Falls can lead to hospital admissions for surgery for broken hips or other fractures. Many seniors, as a result of falls, are unable to return to their regular activities. In addition to causing physical harm, falls can also cause emotional stress.

These are just some of the reasons why RNAO developed a best practice guideline (BPG) called Prevention of Falls and Fall Injuries in the Older Adult, revised for the second time in 2011.

Home care agencies such as Bayshore and VHA Home HealthCare have adopted the BPG. Hospitals, including Toronto’s University Health Network and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, also know how important falls prevention is, which is why they’ve implemented the guideline as well.

Long-term care homes are also a place where seniors deserve to live in a safe environment, which is why RNAO’s BPG helped to form the foundations of a 2008 initiative called the National Collaborative on Falls in Long-Term Care (NCFLTC), a project of RNAO and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute’s (CPSI) Safer Healthcare Now! campaign.

The NCFLTC assembled teams of health-care professionals – including nurses, occupational therapists and dieticians – from across Canada dedicated to preventing long-term care home residents from falling. These groups used recommendations contained in RNAO’s BPG to create falls prevention plans pertinent to their residents and organizations.

The goal of this national program is to reduce the number of falls and fall-related injuries in long-term care homes and to promote seniors’ independence.

In addition to its work with the CPSI, RNAO responded, in 2011, to the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat regarding initial draft regulations under the Retirement Homes Act, 2010. RNAO called for directives to “require licensees to initiate falls prevention committees to gather statistics tracking the circumstances of preventable falls and follow best practice guidelines on suitable corrective actions.”

By promoting evidence-based practice related to falls prevention, RNAO is continuing to ensure seniors live with as much autonomy and dignity as possible.