Major strides being made to prevent falls and ensure ‘independence at home’ for older adults

Jul 31, 2023
By training support workers to deliver a fall prevention program, older adults would receive targeted interventions that focus on reducing their risk of fallsSource: Getty Images.

Researchers from The University of Western Australia are taking significant strides to enhance the quality of life for older Australians.

Thanks to a grant from the HCF Research Foundation, researchers can now shift their focus to training support workers, enabling them to effectively safeguard older adults from falls and extend their time living comfortably at home.

As we age, our risk of falls increases significantly. Falls can lead to serious injuries, including hip fractures, head injuries, and even death.

Nearly 1 in 3 older Australians have experienced a fall in the past 12 months, with 1 in 5 required hospitalisations. And although not all falls result in injury, the incident can often result in a person losing confidence in their own abilities and withdrawing from life to avoid the risk of suffering a fall again.

While falls can happen anywhere, they are particularly dangerous at home, where most people spend the majority of their time.

Leading the research efforts is Dr Jacqueline Francis-Coad, from UWA’s School of Allied Health, along with Professor Anne-Marie Hill, from UWA’s School of Allied Health, and Professors Leon Flicker and Chris Etherton-Beer, from UWA Medical School, Curtin University researchers and community home care partner organisation Juniper.

Francis-Coad said, “enabling functional independence at home is a crucial aspect of promoting the well-being and quality of life for frail older adults, who often face challenges that can limit their ability to perform daily activities.”

“One significant concern is the risk of falls which can lead to serious injuries, resulting in reduced mobility and a loss of independence,” she said.

By training support workers to deliver a fall prevention program, older adults would receive targeted interventions that focus on reducing their risk of falls, ensuring they could continue to live independently in their own homes.

“We’ve worked with older adults and staff in a range of health care settings and found that preventing falls is not always well understood,” Francis-Coad said.

“While this has led to the co-production of videos, posters and booklets to help older adults better understand falls prevention, providing education and exercise programs in the home requires well-trained staff to deliver them.

“Training home care support workers to deliver the programs means they could be included as part of usual home visits.”

As we age, embracing independent living can open up a world of opportunities for us to indulge in cherished activities, while at the same time, it allows us to maintain and strengthen our precious social bonds.

This sense of autonomy and connection brings a profound sense of purpose and boosts our self-esteem, making life even more fulfilling and enjoyable in our later years.

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