26 October 2018

Assess an elderly person’s risk of falling with this simple test

When you become older, your physical abilities change, and you can become more vulnerable to falling and injuring yourself. How at risk are you or a an elderly family member of falling? Here is a test you can do in your home today.

All elderly incontinence sufferers should check their risk for falling. When using an incontinence pad for a long period of time, your ability to sit down and get up from a toilet seat can become strained, due to the decrease in frequent of that activity.

According to Dr Sebastiana Zimba Kalula, 20 to 30 percent of the elderly who fall, suffer serious injuries such as hip and other fractures. Hip fractures are a major cause of immobility and mortality. If you are taking care of an elderly person, be it a family member or client, this test can help to assess their risk of falling.

It can be empowering for someone to know their limitations, as they will know when they need help. This assessment can also play a key role in preventing falls.  Kalula says that “preventing a fall is the most effective way to prevent injury and in certain cases even fatalities in the elderly”.  

Common risk factors for falling in the elderly include poor vision, poor urine control, foot disorders, depression as well as chronic non-communicable diseases.

The 30 second sit-to stand test

This test created by the CDC is designed to indicate your risk of failing by testing your leg strength as well as endurance. Make sure to have a seat with a straight back, it needs to be at least 44cm high and you will need a stopwatch (all smart phones have a stopwatch function).

The test:

sit-to stand test

The scoring chart:

Test score


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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