Video Analysis Prompts Shift in Thinking on Causes of Falls

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- More often than not, elderly patients who fall in long-term care facilities do not trip or stumble while walking, but are instead transitioning from standing still or initiating a new activity at the time of their fall, according to an analysis of video-recorded falls.

"These results challenge traditional assumptions regarding the cause and circumstance of falls in older adults living in long-term care," Stephen N. Robinovitch, Ph.D., said at the meeting.

About half of older adults living in long-term care facilities fall each year, whereas the annual incidence is about 30% among older adults living in the community, said Dr. Robinovitch of the department of biomedical physiology and kinesiology at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C.

Studies of self-reported falls have suggested that about half of all falls result from slips and trips, while the rest are ascribed to losing balance, changing posture, or a leg giving way. In these studies, the most common activities at the time of a fall were walking, turning, transferring, and reaching.

As part of the ongoing Vancouver Fall Mechanisms Study, Dr. Robinovitch and his colleagues are working with two long-term care facilities in British Columbia to develop "real-life laboratories" where they can witness activity before and during falls instead of relying on self-reports.

In common areas throughout the two facilities (each with about 230 beds), the investigators used 270 digital video cameras to record 184 falls by 124 residents during a 2-year period. Three expert reviewers classified the key characteristics of each fall. …

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