Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Tania Shearon, MOT, OTR/L

Second Advisor

Brandi L. Buchanan, OTD, OTR/L, CLA


Older adults are living longer than ever. The global proportion of individuals 65 years or older was 526 million in 2010 and is estimated to reach 1.5 billion in 2050 (Duarte et al., 2020). The growing aging population comes with various challenges, such as chronic health conditions, which are the leading cause of mortality and disability worldwide. Chronic health conditions can lead to other difficulties, such as declines in physical function or mobility. Duarte et al. (2020) found that around 10 million American older adults have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs, presenting a risk for falls.

Falling in older age is a public health concern that will likely grow because the frequency of falls and fall-related injuries increases with age and frailty level (Donath et al., 2016). Fallrelated injuries are the leading cause of hospitalizations due to subsequent injuries, which leads to increased health care costs and further disability. In 2019, three million emergency department visits were recorded due to older adults falls (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021). In 2015, medical costs for falls totaled over $50 billion. Additionally, over 34 thousand deaths were due to falls, making it the leading cause of injury death for older adults in the United States (CDC, 2021). Falling in older age is not uncommon for many elderly individuals; however, it is avoidable.

Falls are a clear public health issue that needs to be addressed for the health and wellbeing of older adults. Research shows fall prevention programs are effective in reducing falls; however, many fall prevention programs do not include a caregiver despite evidence showing that caregivers are essential components to encourage their care recipient toward positive health behavior change (Lach et al., 2011).