Home | Specialty Focus | New study to ‘transform’ falls prevention
A new study could reduce the risk of fatal falls by 40 per cent.

New study to ‘transform’ falls prevention

A new study by James Cook University is trialling a framework that has the potential to reduce the risk of falls in older Australians by 40 per cent if proven successful.

Set to begin this year, the five-year study will trial the adoption of an Environmental Assessment and Modification (EAM) framework for occupational therapists to use with their older clients.

Lead researcher and adjunct associate professor Dr Alison Pighills said the focus of the study was on changing practice and implementing EAM.

"[The study] involves looking at the environmental hazards within somebody’s home and the person’s internal risk factors, such as if they use a mobility aid, their functional independence, age, gender and ethnicity," Dr Pighills said.

"Another area this framework looks at is the tasks a person engages in within the home, so the risk level in terms of their behaviour such as alcohol intake, the choice of clothing, which might present a tripping hazard, and choice of footwear.

"EAM is something OTs do a lot but not necessarily to look at people’s risk of falling."

Dr Pighills said a recent review had already proven EAM was highly effective in reducing the rate of falls by 39 per cent in older people categorised with three or more falls risk factors.

She believes EAM is effective due its partnership approach with the client and occupational therapists.

"The person will identify what they think increases their risk of falling when they feel unsafe doing certain tasks, and the OT will encourage them to not only identify their own risks but also identify their own solutions."

Falls were considered the number one preventable injury in aged care. Overall falls account for around 42 per cent of hospitalisations and 42 per cent of injury deaths.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that 27,900 hospitalisations were due to falls that occurred in residential aged care.

Elderly clients in remote locations could also benefit from EAM if it could be adapted to work with telehealth.

"There’s nothing to say an occupational therapist couldn’t carry out that assessment if a relative or healthcare support worker recorded the client at home doing functional tasks,” Dr Pighills said.

"That’s where I want to go with it, so we make this intervention accessible to more people who live in those remote areas."

The research team will supervise home visits of participating occupational therapists during the study to audit their case notes and ensure they properly implement the EAM framework.

The study received more than $2.6m from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund and an additional $1.4 million of in-kind support from 10 collaborating organisations, including seven universities.

Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the top stories in our weekly newsletter Sign up now

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *