Older people's experiences of falling and perceived risk of falls in the community: A narrative synthesis of qualitative research

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Older People Nursing, 2017, 12 (4), pp. 1 - 8
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Aim To examine qualitative research exploring older people's experiences of falling and the perceived risk of falling in the community. This will contribute new insights into how falling is perceived by the older community. Background Falls are a major problem for older people and healthcare services across the world. Accidental falls in the community are a persistent problem that is generally recognised as an intrinsic risk of ageing. This review provides a new synthesis of evidence that considers older people's perception of falls in the community as new insights are needed if the increasing problems of falls are to be addressed. Design Synthesis of the qualitative literature employing Noblit and Hare's method of reciprocal translation. CINAHL, Medline, EMBASE, PsychINFO and BNI were searched 1999–2015. Methods Noblit and Hare's method of reciprocal translations was used to conceive this meta‐ethnographic synthesis. The ENTREQ statement was employed as a tool for reporting the synthesis of qualitative research. The PRISMA statement was used for reporting the different phase of the literature search, and the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme qualitative research checklist was used as an appraisal framework. Results Eleven papers fit the inclusion criteria and revealed a series of themes. These were falls as a threat to personal identity, falls as a threat to independence, falls as a threat to social interaction and carefulness as a protective strategy. Conclusion Many older people reject the label of “at risk of falling” because of the perceived implication of dependency and incompetence. To be considered “at risk” of falling is perceived as threatening the identity of individuals who are comfortable maintaining their own independence. However, there are also those who accept the risk of falling and in doing so choose carefulness as a personal strategy to manage the risk. For the majority of older people, maintaining independence is the key motivator influencing their actions. Independence to pursue social interaction safeguards against loss of identity, social isolation and negative feelings of dependency. Falling in the community is a problem that persists, despite intervention of local health teams. This article contributes to a body of evidence on older people's experience of falling in the community with the aim of providing new insights for nurses as they approach the issues with patients. Implications for practice Management of falls risk improves through constructive, proactive health behaviour. Promoting a positive attitude towards living well encourages older people to engage in healthy, risk reducing behaviours. Older people reject the designation of “at risk of falling” due to a perceived association with dependency and incompetence. The negative association is a barrier to engaging at‐risk populations with fall prevention interventions.
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