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Falls prevention for the elderly

Keywords: accidental falls , accidents , home/* , activities of daily living , aged/* , aged/*psychology , adjustment of the living environment , cataract surgery , correction of the visual acuity , customisation of the living environment , diagnosis , dietary supplements , dose-response relationship , drug , EBM , economic evaluation , elderly , environment design , evidence-based medicine , exercise program , exercise/physiology , eye test , eyesight , eyesight test , fall , fall prevention , fall prophylaxis , fal

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Abstract:

Background: An ageing population, a growing prevalence of chronic diseases and limited financial resources for health care underpin the importance of prevention of disabling health disorders and care dependency in the elderly. A wide variety of measures is generally available for the prevention of falls and fall-related injuries. The spectrum ranges from diagnostic procedures for identifying individuals at risk of falling to complex interventions for the removal or reduction of identified risk factors. However, the clinical and economic effectiveness of the majority of recommended strategies for fall prevention is unclear. Against this background, the literature analyses in this HTA report aim to support decision-making for effective and efficient fall prevention.Research questions: The pivotal research question addresses the effectiveness of single interventions and complex programmes for the prevention of falls and fall-related injuries. The target population are the elderly (> 60 years), living in their own housing or in long term care facilities. Further research questions refer to the cost-effectiveness of fall prevention measures, and their ethical, social and legal implications. Methods: Systematic literature searches were performed in 31 databases covering the publication period from January 2003 to January 2010. While the effectiveness of interventions is solely assessed on the basis of randomised controlled trials (RCT), the assessment of the effectiveness of diagnostic procedures also considers prospective accuracy studies. In order to clarify social, ethical and legal aspects all studies deemed relevant with regard to content were taken into consideration, irrespective of their study design. Study selection and critical appraisal were conducted by two independent assessors. Due to clinical heterogeneity of the studies no meta-analyses were performed.Results: Out of 12,000 references retrieved by literature searches, 184 meet the inclusion criteria. However, to a variable degree the validity of their results must be rated as compromised due to different biasing factors. In summary, it appears that the performance of tests or the application of parameters to identify individuals at risk of falling yields little or no clinically relevant information. Positive effects of exercise interventions may be expected in relatively young and healthy seniors, while studies indicate opposite effects in the fragile elderly. For this specific vulnerable population the modification of the housing environment shows protective effects. A low number of studies, l

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