Program to help health-carers reduce hospital falls by up to 30%

A PhD student and his academic supervisors in the School of Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne have found that a targeted intervention program which includes a personalized education and exercise program, a “falls alert card” and hip protectors, can significantly reduce the incidence of falls, and thereby reduce the injuries that falls cause.

“This is the first time it has been shown that falls can be significantly reduced in the hospital setting” says lead author of the research report Terry Haines.

“Although it is not a very sexy topic in medical research, reducing the number of falls in hospitals is important because sometimes the injuries cause long term complications and may even mean an independent older person will have to move into residential care earlier than they may have wanted” says Mr Haines.

The study was carried out at the Peter James Centre in Melbourne with the participation of 626 women and men with an average age of 80. Mr Haines measured the number of people who had one or more falls during their stay in hospital and found that there was a 30% reduction in falls among patients who participated in the targeted intervention program.

Mr Haines says evidence shows falls are generally reported to affect between 13-32% of admitted patients, and up to as many as 47% in stroke rehabilitation units, resulting in further injuries or fractures complicating the health of the patient and possibly causing psychological setbacks.

“There is also increased cost to both the patient and the health care system through longer stays in hospital” he says. “And people can loose confidence in walking and living by themselves. Overall, people can have a greatly reduced quality of life following a fall” says Mr Haines.

Mr Haines’ research is featured in the current edition of the prestigious British Medical Journal. Mr Haines is the lead author of the research report. Other authors are Associate Professor Kim Bennell if the School of Physiotherapy and Dr Keith Hill (National Ageing Research Institute) and Dr Richard Osborne of the Centre for Rheumatic Diseases.

The research was conducted in partnership between the University of Melbourne, National Ageing Research Institute and the Peter James Centre (Eastern Health), and was funded by a grant from the Victorian Department of Human Services Aged Care Division.

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