Rehabilitation service for elderly cuts risk of falls

Elderly people suffer half as many further falls if they are immediately referred to a falls prevention service, researchers say.

Research has shown falls prevention service for over 65s delivered a 25% reduction in falls (Photograph: istock)
Research has shown falls prevention service for over 65s delivered a 25% reduction in falls (Photograph: istock)

People over 60 years old who had recently fallen suffered 55% fewer further falls in the following year if immediately referred to a community rehabilitation service, UK researchers found.

Authors of the BMJ study said the findings warranted a further study to determine the economic consequences. This should assess the intervention's effect on costly outcomes such as fractures and hospital admissions, they said.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said: ‘The consequences of a fall in later life can be physically and emotionally devastating, potentially resulting in a loss of mobility, independence and confidence.

‘With one in three people aged over 65 suffering from a fall each year, Age UK welcomes this vital research which has the potential to reduce falls among older people.' 

In the study, researchers identified 204 people over 60 years old who had recently fallen and called emergency services but had not been taken to hospital.

Patients were either referred to a community falls prevention service or given standard care.

Those assigned to the falls prevention service were visited by a service team including occupational therapists, physiotherapists and nurses. They were shown a range of training exercises including ones for strength and balance, while BP and drugs were checked.

People who attended the rehabilitation service experienced a sizeable reduction in falls over the following year. Study authors noted that the effect was much larger than a previous Cochrane review of similar studies, which delivered a 25% reduction.

Researchers said that people who fall are at high risk of falling again, yet are unlikely to receive formal falls prevention interventions.

Such services would reduce the number of further falls and improve other indicators of health, the authors concluded.

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