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Elderly Fall Risks Better Prevented By Intervention Combo, Than Standard Plans: Study

Falls among the elderly may best be prevented by a combination of tactics, including exercise, vision screenings, and supplements, according to the findings of new research. 

Nearly every 20 minutes a person over the age of 65 dies from a fall. Among senior citizens, falls are the most frequent cause of injury, and once a senior falls, they are more likely to fall again.

In a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on November 7, researchers looked at data from other studies conducted on falls among senior citizens over the age of 65. The data indicated a combination of exercise and vision screenings reduced falls the most in the elderly.

Researchers analyzed 54 previously published studies focused on 39 single or combination fall preventions among senior citizens. Nearly 42,000 participants were included.

Overall, four preventions were found to be the most effective in reducing falls among senior citizens. The combination of exercise and vision screenings, with treatment to correct any vision problems, helped reduce falls in nursing homes by 38%.

Other preventions that were helpful included environmental assessments and modifications, patient education, and taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Researchers said several combinations of interventions were likely to be more effective than the usual care to prevent falls in nursing homes, which typically consists of bed alarms or simply installing hand rails.

The new study indicates modifying an elderly individual’s living environment helps reduce falls by 23%. Adding in exercise alone reduces a nursing home resident’s risk of fall by 12%. Similarly, taking vitamin D and calcium reduces the risk of falls by 11%.

A study published last year indicated bed alarms were one of the worst ways to prevent falls in nursing homes. Instead, fall prevention plans were the most effective at reducing falls. Fall prevention plans call on the nursing home to assess the risk of fall on an individual basis and implement interventions like hourly or more frequent staff checks, scheduled bathroom breaks, and close observation.

The new analysis also concluded some interventions had little or no effect on reducing falls. Those interventions included cognitive behavior therapy, dietary modifications, electromagnetic field therapy, and podiatry assessment and treatment.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four people over the age of 65 fall each year. In fact, 29 million senior citizens fell in 2014 alone. About 20% of those falls leads to a serious injury, like a broken bone or head injury.

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