Falls risk and functional decline in older fallers discharged directly from emergency departments

Melissa A Russell, Keith D Hill, Irene Blackberry, Lesley L Day, Shyamali C Dharmage
Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 2006, 61 (10): 1090-5

BACKGROUND: There is currently no standard approach to falls risk assessment and management for older fallers presenting to the emergency department (ED) who are discharged directly home. Hence, this study was conducted to describe the prevalence of falls risk factors associated with older fallers presenting to the ED and to identify the factors associated with postdischarge decline in function in this group.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study was performed with 300 community-dwelling individuals, aged 60 years or older, admitted to the ED following a fall, and discharged directly home. A home-based assessment after ED discharge was performed, which included the prevalence of falls risk factors, identification of functional decline, and objective measurements of balance, gait, depression, and falls efficacy.

RESULTS: Fall-related injuries were sustained by 91% (95% confidence interval [CI], 87.2%-94.0%) of participants presenting to the ED. The most common falls risk factors identified in the home assessment were polypharmacy (79.0%, 95% CI, 73.9%-83.5%), home hazards (76.0%, 95% CI, 70.8%-80.7%), decreased balance (61.3%, 95% CI, 55.6%-66.9%), and arthritis (61.3%, 95% CI, 55.6%-66.9%). A decline in function was reported by 35% of participants (95% CI, 29.6%-40.7%). Sustaining a fracture, functional independence before the fall, being female, depression, and slower Timed Up and Go (TUG) scores were associated with a decline in function (p <.05).

CONCLUSION: Older fallers discharged directly from the ED have a high prevalence of falls risk factors and are at risk of functional decline.

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