Preventing Falls

Fall prevention

Preventing falls amongst elderly patients at subacute facilities

Preventing falls amongst elderly patients at subacute facilities

While falling can be dangerous for any individual, regardless of their state of health, due to elderly patient's greater fragility falls are particularly dangerous for seniors. Having a serious fall is one of the greatest predictors of future degeneration and fragility for older patients. Although the common image of an elderly fall victim is someone who has 'fallen and can't get up,' and is lying alone at home, in subacute hospitals falls are reported to occur between 13% and 32% of admitted patients and in stroke rehabilitation units, falls have been reported in up to 47% of patients. Up to 70% of falls result in injuries and 1-10% of falls result in fractures as well as long-standing psychological effects for the elderly person (Haines et al. 2004). Falls are costly for the patient's and the patient's family in terms of psychological distress and also for the subacute facility in terms of additional healthcare costs, when treating the patient.

One recent study, as reported in the British Medical Journal found that a specific fall prevention program was extremely helpful in dramatically reducing fall rates. "Participants in the intervention group received a targeted falls prevention programme in addition to usual care. This programme consisted of a falls risk alert card with information brochure, an exercise programme, an education programme, and hip protectors" (Haines et al. 2004). The type of intervention depended upon the patient's specific complaint, level of cognitive impairment, and age. Regardless, all 310 patients who received intervention and care showed a significantly lower rate of falls than the 316 in the control group: 30% less.

Current research conducted by Dr. Andrea Trombetti of the University Hospitals and Faculty of Medicine of Geneva suggests that many types of educational programs can be helpful for the elderly in preventing falls -- the important thing is that an interventional fall-prevention program is indeed undertaken. A trial of 134 people, average age 75, with notable unsteadiness and identified as being at high risk for falls received weekly hour-long eurhythmics sessions. Eurhythmics focuses on teaching movement in time to music, having patients "walk and turn around, stay in step with changing tempos, learn to shift their weight and balance, handle objects while walking, and make exaggerated upper-body movements while walking" (Rabin 2010). Only 24 of the elderly patients in the experimental group experienced falls, versus 54 in the control group, suggesting that intervention of various kinds can have a demonstrable positive effect for the elderly. Despite the small number of participants in the study, the difference between the two groups is significant

Balance is a skill that can quickly deteriorate with age, if not reinforced. In another recent study comparing the balance of healthy elderly volunteers (average age 75), with undergraduates, despite the fact that the older individuals were in good health and exercised an hour a day: "They thought they were in good shape and had good balance. It scared them a bit, frankly, to see how awful their balance really was" compared with younger test subjects (Reynolds 2010). After several sessions using a Wii Fit, the popular video exercise system, the older subjects showed significant improvement in their ability to engage in simple balance exercises, such as standing on one foot. After the intervention the subjects tested eight years 'younger' than they had previously. Additionally, in another "representative case study published last year found that an 89-year-old woman with a balance disorder and a history of falls significantly improved her scores on a series of balance tests after six sessions of Wii Bowling" (Reynolds 2010).

Education in balance-awareness for older adults can be empowering as, regardless of the subjects' initial state of fitness, being able to demonstrably improve their balance gives the elderly a greater sense of…