A New Test To Tackle Falls in The Elderly

david-monje-lady with walking stick

Older people fear having a fall, more than a bag snatch or a home invasion, according to Professor Stephen Lord, a senior principal fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia at the launch of a new screening test for falls, a collaboration between NeuRA and the aged care company, the Mark Moran Group. He stated that the reason they fear this so much is it is often the precursor to losing their independence. Once an elderly person goes to the Emergency Department of a hospital as a result of a fall and into the hospital system, they are often assessed as being unable to continue caring for themselves, resulting in them moving to an aged care facility.

Research shows one in three people over 65 will have one or more falls every year. At that rate the number of new hospitals will have to increase at a rapid rate to cope with falls related injuries.

Professor Lord stated that the cost of falls to the economy is greater than any other injury, including car crashes.

If a fall is serious, 43 per cent of people aged 70 or older who have one will be admitted to hospital. Currently, falls account for 250,000 hospital bed days every year, and will rise to 450,000 by 2050. Of those who are hospitalised, about 10 per cent will move to an aged care facility for the first time.

The new screening test, launched this week, can predict with 75 per cent accuracy the risk of someone over 60 having a fall – and recommend ways to prevent one. The kit, FallScreen +, has nine assessments. These relate to general wellbeing, including pain and mental health; regular exercise; executive function (which includes ability to assess and negotiate hazards in an unfamiliar place), and eyesight, including ability to see light and shade (which helps to avoid trip hazards).

The kit will be trialled at aged care facilities owned by the Mark Moran Group, and will also be released as an app pitched at those who work in aged care, including physiotherapists, psychologists and others. A simplified test is being developed for general practitioners.

As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I highly recommend that elderly people have a future plan in place so that if they do have a fall or several falls and find themselves in a situation where they can no longer stay safely in their home, they have a plan B ready to go. If they have developed a plan, they are in a position of having more choice and being able to move to a facility that suits their needs, tastes and location. This can make a big difference to the outcome; it can be a positive move.

Some facts taken from Julie Power’s Sydney Morning Herald article published Aug 27 2019.