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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The meaning of falling for elderly community-dwelling individuals Orlando, Theresa Eileen


Falls in the elderly Canadian population pose a serious health problem; they are the leading cause of accidental death in persons aged 65 and older. The most common serious injuries associated with falling are hip fractures; more than 19,000 Canadians sustain a hip fracture yearly as a result of a fall. A review of the literature reveals that most of the studies on falling have been conducted in institutional settings. Community-based studies have identified the risk factors associated with falling to assist in case-finding and fall prevention. However, qualitative studies of falling for elderly community-dwelling individuals are non-existent. The purpose of this study is to describe the meaning of falling for elderly community-dwelling individuals. The phenomenological approach to qualitative methodology was used for this study. This approach seeks to describe human experience as it is lived. Individuals 65 years of age or older were contacted through a Long Term Care Unit. Eight women became informants, participating in repeated interviews guided by open-ended questions. From the content analysis of the data, three major categories of data that were common to the participants were identified and developed. The three categories represent levels of perception in relation to falling, which together represent the entire meaning of falling. At the first level, participants interpreted the various aspects of their falls. The second level describes the reactions to falling. The third level describes how participants coped with falling in the context of coping with aging. These findings revealed that falling was viewed as a symbol of aging and therefore, the emotional reaction to falling occurred in the context of growing old. Furthermore, it was found that coping with falling occurred in the broader context of coping with aging. The implications for nursing practise, education, and research were identified in light of the research findings.

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