April 26, 2007 / 7:03 PM / 13 years ago

Program fails to curb falls in older folks

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A community-based intervention designed to address multiple factors that put elderly people at increased risk for falling and injuring themselves has proven ineffective. There was no decrease in the number of falls in “at-risk” elderly individuals who completed the program.

Falls are a significant source of illness and death for older adults, Dr. Jane E. Mahoney, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and colleagues note in a report

They conducted a randomized, controlled trial to examine the efficacy of an intervention to reduce falls in 344 older adults living in the community. These people were at least 65 years old and had suffered two falls in the previous year, or one fall in the previous 2 years plus injury or balance problems.

In the intervention group, a trained nurse or physical therapist assessed the subjects’ fall risk factors during two in-home visits, followed by 11 phone calls each month. The intervention group was also referred to physical therapy or other providers, along with a balanced exercise plan.

Individuals in the control group received the in-home assessment only and were advised to contact their physician about falls.

During follow up, which lasted at least 365 days for 274 participants, there was no significant difference in the risk of falls between the intervention group and the control group. However, the subjects in the intervention group spent fewer days in a nursing home than those in the control group.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society April 2007.

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