Fall rates are high in people with ID

By Ellen Smulders, PhD
Department of Rehabilitation,
Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen Centre for Evidence Based Practice, Nijmegen, the Netherlands

People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are at risk of falls. We need to find out how to prevent falls. To better understand the causes of falls, it is important to learn more about when, how, and under which circumstances persons with ID fall.

What did you do in your research?
Participants were recruited from three service providers in the Netherlands. A total of 82 individuals with mild to moderate ID (50 years and older) participated in this study, who were also able to understand simple instructions and able to walk independently for at least 10 meters. Study participants registered their falls for one year with monthly fall registration calendars with the use of stickers (smiley face if no fall occurred that day or a red sticker if a fall was experienced). When a fall occurred, participants and their caregivers completed a questionnaire around fall circumstances and consequences.

What did you find out?
Of the 82 total participants, 37 (45%) reported at least one fall (range 1 to 6) during the yearlong observation. On average, participants fell one time per year, which is more than the average found in the general elderly population. Most falls occurred during walking, outside, and in familiar environments. About 10% of the falls resulted in severe injuries, about half of which were fractures. In conclusion, the circumstances and consequences of falls in persons with ID are comparable to those of the general elderly population, with the exception that persons with ID tend to fall more often.

What are the take-home messages?
- Fall rates are high in persons with ID - Most falls occur during walking, typically outside, in familiar environments - Fall prevention strategies must be developed for individuals with ID

To learn more about these findings contact Henny van Schrojenstein Lantman - de Valk.

Full Journal Article
Smulders, E., Enkelaar, L., Weerdesteyn, V., Geurts, A. C. H. & van Schrojenstein Lantman-de Valk, H. (2013). Falls in older persons with intellectual disabilities: fall rate, circumstances and consequences. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 57, 1173–1182.