A study by Simon Fraser University researchers has found seniors in long-term care facilities are at high risk of head injuries – nearly 40 per cent of those who fall experience head impact.
The researchers studied video footage of 227 falls among 133 residents at a local long-term care facility. They found 37 per cent of falling residents struck their heads upon falling, and hit the ground – most often, linoleum or tile flooring – more than 60 per cent of the time. The researchers conclude: "By any measure, this is an alarmingly high prevalence."
More should be done, they suggest, to design safer environments, improve procedures to detect possible brain injuries among those who fall, and promote strengthening upper limb exercises.
The study results are published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Stephen Robinovitch, a professor of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology (BPK) at SFU, carried out the research with co-authors and graduate students Rebecca Schonnop, now a medical student at UBC, and BPK PhD student Yijian Yang.
Robinovitch, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Injury Prevention and Mobility Biomechanics, says other recent studies have been documenting a rapid increase in falls among seniors, particularly those over 80 years of age.
"It's a rising trend that is poorly understood," says Robinovitch, noting that falls are the number-one cause of injury and among the top-10 causes of deaths of older adults in Canada.
The team's earlier research, on the activity of seniors prior to their falls and how those who fell lost their balance, was published in Oct. 2012 in The Lancet. Their assessment was drawn from video collected from a network of more than 200 cameras situated in a pair of local care homes.
SFU's fall-related research aims to improve fall prevention strategies, from impacting the design of assistive devices, including wheelchairs or walkers, to the planning of care facilities, such as using a compliant sub-layer to flooring to cushion impact but not impair balance, and raising awareness of the benefits of exercise.
Robinovitch oversees SFU's Injury Prevention and Mobility Lab, where testing continues on wearable fall sensors and advanced protective gear, such as wearable hip protectors. Testing is also being done on compliant flooring, which could lead to building code changes for safer environments.
Robinovitch's team heads up TIPS (Technology for Injury Prevention in Seniors), a Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) funded program that brings together experts on aging and mobility research to utilize and develop new technologies.
Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.
Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.
Stephen Robinovitch, 604.808.5604; email@example.com
Rebecca Schonnop, Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org
Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017; Marianne_Meadahl@sfu.ca
File video (2012): http://at.sfu.ca/HYqhWX
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