Physical therapy programmes reduce bad falls among elderly: Study 


Posted: 10:29 am, March 16, 2017 by editor
SINGAPORE, Mar 16: A tailored physical therapy programme for the elderly helps to reduce the severity of falls among the elderly, according to findings from a study led by the Duke-NUS Medical School.

The Steps to Avoid Falls in Elderly (SAFE) study, which was released on Thursday (Mar 16), is based on observations of 354 elderly patients above the age of 65 over a period of nine months.

The participants had all previously sought medical attention at emergency departments for falls or fall-related injuries. Half of them were randomly assigned to receive tailored and intensive physical therapy, while the other half received no structured physical therapy beyond the usual services provided to them.

Researchers found that although those who participated in the physical therapy programmes did not have fewer falls, their falls were less severe and they experienced slower physical decline. In fact, receiving physical therapy reduced the risk of falls that required medical attention or restricted daily activities by almost 50 per cent among participants.

Another observation was that the health of a patient played a part in whether such programmes were successful. Of the patients suffering no more than one major medical condition, those that received physical therapy reported almost 70 per cent fewer falls than those that had not, the researchers said.

Professor David Matchar, who led the research team, also noted that the elderly in Singapore seem to fall less than their counterparts worldwide.

“Whether this is from reduced mobility due to the assistance of their families and caregivers, or due to some other reason is yet to be determined and something we are currently working on,” said Prof Matchar, the director of Health Services and Systems Research Programme at Duke-NUS.

The SAFE study adds “strong scientific evidence” to research reporting the benefits of community-based tailored physical therapy programmes in preventing falls in the elderly, especially for those in better health, the press release said.

Such programmes can connect emergency doctors with community-based physical therapists to extend care for elderly patients who suffer from falls beyond hospitals and emergency departments, and prevent future visits to hospitals due to falls, they added.

Singapore General Hospital (SGH) senior consultant Marcus Ong said that with Singapore’s ageing population, the hospital has been seeing more elderly patients showing up at its emergency department after falls.

“The fall often triggers a progressive decline with a fear of falling, reduced mobility and difficulty of self-care,” he said, reiterating that SAFE can help the elderly reduce the risk of serious falls.

The college conducted the study from 2012 in partnership with SGH, Changi General Hospital (CGH) and the Agency for Integrated Care.

– CNA/mz

(The Malaysian Times)

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