Injuries due to a fall remain one of the most common, preventable causes for hospitalization amongst older adults. As a result, organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and the American Geriatric Society strongly recommend everyone aged 65 and older undergo a fall risk assessment annually.
Even if you feel comfortable on your feet, regularly assessing your risk of a fall can catch emerging risk factors and allow you and your doctor’s time to adapt to this change and lower your risk of a serious accident or injury.
While no one enjoys tests, they are usually much better experiences when you know what to expect. As a result, this article will lay out what you can expect during a routine annual fall assessment.
Step 1 – Screening Interview/Questionnaire
The first step in a fall risk assessment is a series of yes/no questions about your day-to-day health and behavior.
To get the most out of your screening, it is important that you answer honestly and clearly – if you feel like the right answer to a question is “maybe…,” be sure to explain yourself fully.
These questions can include:
- Have you fallen in the past six months?
- Are you currently taking any medication to improve sleep or your mood?
- Do you often need to rush to the restroom?
Even though some of these questions may not seem directly related to your fall risk, they all help paint a picture of your current condition.
Step 2 – The Fall Risk Assessment
Depending on the outcome of your screening interview, your doctor may ask you to perform a few physical tasks under their supervision. These tasks are designed to evaluate your strength, balance, and gait, all of which contribute to your overall fall risk.
While not all assessments are the same, the three most common tests are as follows:
- Timed Up-and-Go – This test begins with you seated. You will be asked to stand up, walk about 10 feet at a natural pace before sitting down again. This test assesses your gait by analyzing how much time it takes you to complete all three tasks.
- 30-Second Chair Stand – This test begins with you seated and your arms crossed across your chest. When the tester says “go,” you will stand up from the chair and sit back down.
This test assesses your strength based on the number of times you can complete the process. The “target” number of repetitions changes based on the age of the person being assessed.
- 4-Stage Balance Test – This test assesses your ability to balance and involves standing in four different positions and holding each for ten seconds. The steps are as follows:
- 1: Stand with your feet side-by-side.
- 2: Move one foot halfway forward, so the instep is touching the big toe of your other foot.
- 3: Move one foot fully in front of the other, so the toes are touching the heel of your other foot.
- 4: Stand on one foot.
Preparing for a Fall Risk Assessment
The best way to prepare for a fall risk assessment and ensure the most accurate results is simple: don’t prepare! This battery of tests is designed to evaluate your everyday chance of a fall, so any preparation beyond wearing a good pair of shoes (which you should already be doing) may inhibit the accuracy of your test.
Based on your performance during the assessment, your doctor may ask follow up questions about your daily activities, diet, exercise routines, and other factors that can lower or increase your chance of a fall. These may lead to recommendations for small changes you can make to lower your risk level.
As with any interaction with your doctor, be sure to take notes and do not be afraid to ask for an email follow-up with any recommendations for your records.
SelectCare Home Health Care has spent nearly 40 years helping New Yorkers overcome challenges and lead happier, healthier lives in their longtime homes.