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Falls Risk Factors and a Compendium of Falls Risk Screening Instruments

Fabre, Jennifer M. PT, CSCS, PhD1; Ellis, Rebecca PhD2; Kosma, Maria PhD3; Wood, Robert H. PhD4

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: October/December 2010 - Volume 33 - Issue 4 - p 184–197
doi: 10.1097/JPT.0b013e3181ff2a24
Literature Review

Clinical Problem: Falls are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries and injurious death among older adults; the aftermath of a fall stresses the health care system and places financial and psychological burdens on the patient and family. Because of this, fall prevention/risk reduction is a primary focus of numerous health care agendas. Over the last 2 decades, clinical research has provided clinicians with a variety of screening tools to quantify risk factors for falls. The majority of these measures focus on single domain intraindividual (eg, balance, strength, vision) or extraindividual (eg, home safety) falls risk factors. Some of these single domain instruments are easily introduced and administered by community lay leaders. When a more comprehensive assessment across multiple domains is required, the assessment cannot easily be administered by community program leaders. A physical therapist must determine which instrument, or combination of instruments, best targets risk of falling for a given older adult.

Purpose: This integrative review of the literature will provide clinicians and researchers a concise examination of falls risks factors and a compendium of falls risk screening and assessment instruments. Methods: Searchable databases, such as Medline and CINAHL were used to identify articles about strategies used for fall risk assessment. Information about measurement properties and characteristics were extracted and are presented in table format.

Conclusion: Comparison of recently developed multidimensional and comprehensive screening algorithms for falls risk identification may aid in lowering the rates of false negatives associated with using very specific instruments that screen or assess in only 1 falls risk factor domain.

1School of Allied Health Professions, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center—Shreveport, Louisiana.

2Department of Kinesiology and Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta.

3Department of Kinesiology, Louisiana State University, Shreveport.

4Department of Human Performance, Dance, and Recreation, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.

Address correspondence to: Jennifer M Fabre, PT, PhD, CSCS, Department of Physical Therapy, School of Allied Health Professions, LSUHSC-S, 1501 Kings Highway, PO Box 33932, Shreveport, LA 71130-3932 (

Copyright © 2010 the Section on Geriatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association
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