JOURNAL ARTICLE

Gait parameter risk factors for falls under simple and dual task conditions in cognitively impaired older people

Morag E Taylor, Kim Delbaere, A Stefanie Mikolaizak, Stephen R Lord, Jacqueline C T Close
Gait & Posture 2013, 37 (1): 126-30
22832468
Impaired gait may contribute to the increased rate of falls in cognitively impaired older people. We investigated whether gait under simple and dual task conditions could predict falls in this group. The study sample consisted of 64 community dwelling older people with mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Participants walked at their preferred speed under three conditions: (a) simple walking, (b) walking while carrying a glass of water and (c) walking while counting backwards from 30. Spatiotemporal gait parameters were measured using the GAITRite(®) mat. Falls were recorded prospectively for 12months with the assistance of carers. Twenty-two (35%) people fell two or more times in the 12month follow-up period. There was a significant main effect of gait condition and a significant main effect of faller status for mean value measures (velocity, stride length, double support time and stride width) and for variability measures (swing time variability and stride length variability). Examination of individual gait parameters indicated that the multiple fallers walked more slowly, had shorter stride length, spent longer time in double support, had a wider support width and showed more variability in stride length and swing time (p<0.05). There was no significant interaction between gait condition and faller status for any of the gait variables. In conclusion, dual task activities adversely affect gait in cognitively impaired older people. Multiple fallers performed worse in each gait condition but the addition of a functional or cognitive secondary task provided no added benefit in discriminating fallers from non-fallers with cognitive impairment.

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