New guidance on reducing falls in aged care

New research outlines how a tailored exercise and falls prevention plan can successfully prevent aged care residents falling.

Regular exercise and a personalised falls prevention plan can prevent falls in aged care homes, Flinders University research has found. 

Annual quality indicator data shows almost a third of residents record at least one fall every quarter. The most recent quarterly report shows that from April to June last year, 61,871 residents recorded a fall with 3,619 of those resulting in a major injury.

Yet there is no current national strategy on preventing falls. And – until now – extremely limited evidence on how to prevent falls. To close the gap, Flinders University researchers Dr Suzanne Dyer and Dr Jenni Suen have produced two research papers that provide clear guidance on how to successfully reduce falls for aged care residents.

Dr Suzanne Dyer

“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 Dr Dyer – a senior research fellow at Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health.

“These findings are important for care home managers and staff, as well as residents and their families,” Dr Dyer told Australian Ageing Agenda. “For managers, it’s important for them to understand that there are benefits in terms of falls prevention of exercise programs, but they have to be ongoing, that is incorporated into routine care,” she said.

“If they stop exercising, the benefits are lost,” Dr Dyer added. Programs should include a combination of exercise types – such as moderate intensity, strength, balance and resistance – be tailored to individuals’ abilities and preferences and delivered with the involvement of appropriately trained personnel, she said.

An individual falls risk assessment that informs care home staff to make adjustments to interventions are also key, said Dr Jenni Suen, a research fellow in rehabilitation and aged care at the College of Medicine and Public Health. The researchers found falls were reduced following different personalised interventions – such as exercise, mobility aids, glasses, changing medications or modifying the environment – but only when staff and managers could modify the strategies according to circumstances, for example, dementia.

“Care home managers and care staff should know that when they’re assessing ways to prevent falls in individual residents, it’s important to have the care staff involved and giving input on how best to deliver any approaches needed, for example when considering the use of different mobility aids or exercise programs,” Dr Suen told AAA.

This is also important to ensure residents and their families are getting access to the right supports; that is exercise programs with a combination of different exercise types and a risk assessment to consider which interventions can support them to reduce falls, she said.

“This should be happening on admission to care, and regularly as part of routine care – at least once a year and upon any significant changes in health or if they have a fall.”

The findings have been published in two research papers – Critical features of multifactorial interventions for effective falls reduction in residential aged care: a systematic review, intervention component analysis and qualitative comparative analysis and Exercise for falls prevention in aged care: systematic review and trial endpoint meta-analyses – in the journal Age and Ageing.

Dr Jenni Suen

They have also been pivotal in informing the updated Australian Falls prevention guidelines – which are currently open for consultation ahead of their release soon.

When care home managers and staff make falls prevention a priority in their care home, it can help to prevent falls amongst residents, said Dr Suen.

“Making falls prevention a priority means to routinely conduct a falls risk assessment considering both environmental risks such as lighting and trip hazards as well as personal risks such as a need for mobility aids or glasses, exercise program and personalised nutrition.”

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Tags: Dr Jenni Suen, Dr Suzanne Dyer, falls prevention, flinders university,

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