Feb 09, 2024

Evidence backed: These two things are key to preventing falls in residential aged care

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Two new pieces of research suggest these two things can effectively help reduce falls in residential aged care facilities. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • Falls in older adults cost Australia’s health systems $2.5 billion each year and can have devastating personal consequences
  • 130,000 older Australians are hospitalised for a fall and 5,000 Australians die from a fall each year
  • Annual aged care quality indicator data shows almost a third of residents record at least one fall every quarter

New research from Flinders University has revealed that falls in residential aged care homes could be prevented by using these gold-standard approaches.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety highlighted the urgent need to address falls in this setting and falls have become a mandatory quality indicator and contribute to the star rating of nursing homes.

There is no current national fall prevention strategy for residential aged care and evidence on how to prevent these falls has been extremely limited – until now.

Two new research papers by Flinders University researchers have helped inform the soon-to-be-released updated Australian Falls prevention guidelines that are currently open for consultation, revealing clear guidance on how to successfully reduce falls for aged care residents with the use of frequent exercise and personalised fall prevention plans. 

“We have found that both regular exercise and a personalised falls prevention plan based on each resident’s individual needs should significantly reduce the likelihood of a fall,” said one researcher, Doctor Suzanne Dyer.

“Much like any exercise program, it should include a combination of exercise types such as balance and resistance and be tailored, allowing for individual abilities and preferences.” 

 

The research also highlights the importance of having an individual falls risk assessment for each person, allowing for the flexibility of care home staff to make adjustments where required to reduce falls.

“Falls were reduced when different interventions (such as exercise programs, mobility aids, glasses, changing medications or modifying the environment) were given based on an individual’s falls risk assessment,” said the second researcher, Dr Jenni Suen from the College of Medicine and Public Health.

“These simple additional considerations for both residents and staff appear to differentiate between successfully preventing falls or not. Therefore, considering these factors when planning a falls prevention program in residential aged care, could make all the difference.” 

Researchers have been investigating fall prevention strategies for many years and the connection between exercise and preventing a fall has been a consistent correlation drawn.

In June last year, a new program was launched in one of Sydney’s busiest hospitals to help reduce the number of older people presenting to the emergency department because of a fall, who then often move into aged care. The program assists older people in managing chronic conditions through individualised high-intensity training programs covering balance, aerobic activities, and diet plans.

But research and funding to discover more about fall prevention is still prevalent in healthcare. 

In February, Government funding was awarded to an AI project that predicted and prevented falls in aged care which saw HomeGuardian smart devices installed at VMCH facilities, using the predictive technology to boost their ability to identify and enhance preventative falls measures.

Both research papers have been published in the Age and Ageing journal. Read Dr Suen’s paper here or Dr Dyer’s here

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  1. A major problem also is that some Doctors will not even assess a patient, even when they have been given information from family re the wellbeing of the patient, saying, you’ll just have to unfortunately wait till they have a fall before we can do anything (this has happened in my family)

  2. An interesting evidence-based report, and agree exercise is most important for physical strength and mental stimulation.

    However, of immediate concern to me was the image of a fall, look at the foot wear!! surely a partial contributor to this accident?

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