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      Inability to get up after falling, subsequent time on floor, and summoning help: prospective cohort study in people over 90

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      BMJ : British Medical Journal

      BMJ Publishing Group Ltd.

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          Abstract

          Objectives To describe the incidence and extent of lying on the floor for a long time after being unable to get up from a fall among people aged over 90; to explore their use of call alarm systems in these circumstances.

          Design 1 year follow-up of participants in a prospective cohort study of ageing, using fall calendars, phone calls, and visits.

          Setting Participants’ usual place of residence (own homes or care homes), mostly in Cambridge.

          Participants 90 women and 20 men aged over 90 (n=110), surviving participants of the Cambridge City over-75s Cohort, a population based sample.

          Main outcome measures Inability to get up without help, lying on floor for a long time after falling, associated factors; availability and use of call alarm systems; participants’ views on using call alarms to summon help if needed after falling.

          Results In one year’s intensive follow-up, 54% (144/265) of fall reports described the participant as being found on the floor and 82% (217/265) of falls occurred when the person was alone. Of the 60% who fell, 80% (53/66) were unable to get up after at least one fall and 30% (20/66) had lain on the floor for an hour or more. Difficulty in getting up was consistently associated with age, reported mobility, and severe cognitive impairment. Cognition was the only characteristic that predicted lying on the floor for a long time. Lying on the floor for a long time was strongly associated with serious injuries, admission to hospital, and subsequent moves into long term care. Call alarms were widely available but were not used in most cases of falls that led to lying on the floor for a long time. Comments from older people and carers showed the complexity of issues around the use of call alarms, including perceptions of irrelevance, concerns about independence, and practical difficulties.

          Conclusions Lying on the floor for a long time after falling is more common among the “oldest old” than previously thought and is associated with serious consequences. Factors indicating higher risk and comments from participants suggest practical implications. People need training in strategies to get up from the floor. Work is needed on access and activation issues for design of call alarms and information for their effective use. Care providers need better understanding of the perceptions of older people to provide acceptable support services.

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          Most cited references 29

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          Risk factors for recurrent nonsyncopal falls. A prospective study.

          Falls are a major threat to the health of older persons. We evaluated potential risk factors for falls in 325 community-dwelling persons aged 60 years or older who had fallen during the previous year, then followed up weekly for 1 year to ascertain nonsyncopal falls and their consequences. Risk factors for having a single fall were few and relatively weak, but multiple falls were more predictable. In multivariate analyses, we found increased odds of two or more falls for persons who had difficulty standing up from a chair, difficulty performing a tandem walk, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, three or more falls during the previous year, and a fall with injury during the previous year, and for whites. The proportion of subjects with two or more falls per year increased from 0.10 for those with none or one of these risk factors to 0.69 for those with four or more risk factors. Among older persons with a history of a recent fall, the risk of multiple nonsyncopal falls can be predicted from a few simple questions and examinations.
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            Circumstances and consequences of falls in independent community-dwelling older adults.

            knowledge of the circumstances and consequences of falls in older adults is important for understanding the aetiology of falls as well as for effective clinical assessment and design of fall prevention strategies. Such data, however, are relatively scarce, especially in community-dwelling elders. accidental falls (including their circumstances and consequences) occurring in 96 male and female participants between 60 and 88 years of age were monitored prospectively for 1 year. After the monitoring period, participants were divided into three groups based on fall status: non-fallers (n = 46), one-time fallers (n = 27) and recurrent fallers (n = 23). Frequency distributions were created for selected circumstances and consequences of falls and the prevalence of these consequences were examined. 50 participants (52%) fell during the 1 year period, amassing 91 falls. Trips and slips were the most prevalent causes of falls, accounting for 59% of falls. Falls most often occurred during the afternoon and while subjects walked on level or uneven surfaces. Fallers most commonly attributed falls to hurrying too much. Fractures resulted from five of the 91 falls and eight other falls resulted in soft tissue injuries that required treatment by a physician. There were no differences between one-time and recurrent fallers in the circumstances and consequences of falls. However, several notable differences were found between men (n = 20) and women (n = 30) who fell. Falls by men most often resulted from slips whereas falls by women most often resulted from trips. Moreover, women and men differed in the time of the year in which falls occurred, with men falling most often during winter and women during summer. the results of this study provide insight into the circumstances and consequences of falls among independent community-dwelling older adults and suggest some possible ways of preventing falls. Preventive services, however, should not solely target recurrent fallers, nor should the type of services necessarily differ for one-time and recurrent fallers.
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              Older people's views of advice about falls prevention: a qualitative study.

              The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of older people's perceptions of falls prevention advice, and how best to design communications that will encourage older people to take action to prevent falls. Focus groups and interviews were carried out with 66 people aged 61-94 years recruited from a variety of settings, using falls prevention messages to stimulate discussion. Thematic analysis revealed that participants interpreted 'falls prevention' principally as meaning hazard reduction, use of aids and restriction of activity. Only one participant was aware that falls risk could be reduced by carrying out exercises to improve strength and balance. Falls prevention advice was typically regarded as useful in principle but not personally relevant or appropriate. Advice about falling was often depicted as common sense, only necessary for older or more disabled individuals, and potentially patronizing and distressing. Our findings suggest that older people do not reject falls prevention advice because of ignorance of their risk of falling, but because they see it as a potential threat to their identity and autonomy. Messages that focus on the positive benefits of improving balance may be more acceptable and effective than advice on falls prevention.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: research nurse/study coordinator
                Role: professor of public health medicine
                Journal
                BMJ
                bmj
                BMJ : British Medical Journal
                BMJ Publishing Group Ltd.
                0959-8138
                1468-5833
                2008
                2008
                17 November 2008
                : 337
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge CB2 0SR
                Author notes
                Article
                flej568329
                10.1136/bmj.a2227
                2590903
                19015185
                © Fleming et al 2008

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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                Medicine

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