Elderly Care Facilities Could Prevent Fall and Fracture Injuries With Routine Exercise Interventions: Study

A panel of experts are recommending elderly care facilities implement exercise programs for residents to prevent fall injuries and fatalities.

New research highlights the importance of routine exercise interventions for elderly individuals living in community-dwellings, indicating that the measures can significantly lower the rate of injuries and future falls at nursing homes and other elderly care facilities, where falls are a leading cause of harm among seniors.

In findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from the U.S. Preventative Services found that exercises focusing on behavior changes, cognitive tasks, key physical abilities (balance, strength, flexibility), and different training formats could reduce the risk of elderly fall injuries by 16% or more.

According to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, falls are the primary cause of unintentional injury-related fatalities among adults aged 65 and older in the United States. Over a quarter of community-dwelling older adults have experienced at least one fall within the previous year, translating to 714 falls per 1,000 older individuals. Furthermore, according to the research, 10.2% of these adults suffered fall-related injuries, equating to 170 injuries per 1,000 older adults.

Over the past two decades, there has been a significant upward trend in elderly care facility fall-related death rates, with a 41% increase observed in the last ten years alone, rising from 55.3 per 100,000 in 2012 to 78.0 per 100,000 in 2021.

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In this new report, researchers from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force conducted an extensive review of 83 studies, involving 48,839 participants between January 1, 2016, and May 8, 2023. The research focused on adults aged 65 and older, aimed to identify the most effective methods for preventing falls and related injuries.

The studies reviewed multifactorial and exercise-based interventions that positively impacted reducing overall fall rates and injurious falls among the elderly. They explored various exercise interventions including behavior change components to modify habits, cognitive tasks to enhance mental and physical coordination, and individual exercise elements like balance, strength, and flexibility. These exercises were delivered in formats ranging from group sessions to individual training or a combination of both.

According to the findings, implementing exercise programs could significantly reduce various types of falls and related injuries among the elderly. Specifically, the rate of overall falls could be reduced by 15%, the likelihood of an individual experiencing one or more falls could be decreased by 8%, and the number of injurious falls could be lowered by 16%.

The U.S. Preventative Task Force indicates that exercise plays a crucial role in reducing fall risks among the elderly, especially in community settings like nursing homes and care facilities. Through targeted exercise interventions, these facilities can not only reduce the incidence of falls but also improve the overall well-being of their residents.

The researchers acknowledged that while serious adverse effects from both multifactorial and exercise interventions are possible, such incidents were rare, and that the benefits of exercise in reducing falls generally outweigh these risks.

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