Research Tries to Prevent Elderly Falls

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on February 26, 2009 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights
Updated on February 24, 2022

A University of Illinois-Chicago study found that repeatedly exposing people to situations where the footing is unstable helped train them to maintain their balance on slippery floors and avoid falls.

The research improves understanding of how the brain develops fall prevention strategies that can be used in a variety of situations. And experts say such training might prove particularly helpful for elderly people, who are at increased risk for falls that can lead to serious complications, disability and death.

Pitman, Kalkhoff, Sicula & Dentice, S.C. is a personal injujry law firm based in Milwaukee, with a devoted nursing home neglect practice.  Our nursing home abuse and neglect trial team has successfully represented abused and neglected residents in almost every county.  We know Wisconsin.

The study had volunteers train on a moveable platform that could be operated to disrupt a persons balance and a group of volunteers who did no training on the platform. All participants were asked to walk on a vinyl surface that had an invisible slippery spot.

Not one member of the group that had received training on the moveable platform fell on the slippery floor, and seven of the eight never lost their balance. Those who didn’t receive training had more trouble when they made contact with the slippery surface.

The study found that the trained volunteers were better at controlling the landing foot the foot thats on the ground when someone starts to slip. They could slow the movement of the landing foot as it began to slide forward, whereas the landing foot of the untrained participants went out from under them much faster.

Controlling this foot, which is sliding forward, plays an important role in maintaining stability and prevents a backward fall, study co-author Yi-Chung Pai said in an American Physiological Society news release.

The researchers found that the trained participants unconsciously changed their gait when they began to slip. They used a flatter landing foot and bent the landing knee more, which helped reduce the velocity of the slip.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, included young adult volunteers. Research is now being conducted with older adults.

Falls in the elderly can have serious consequences. We have seen many cases of falls at nursing homes that were avoidable and preventable.  We have also seen many residents die as a result of fractures and brain injuries caused by a fall. The nursing home staff should focus on minimizing fall risk and risk of fall-related injuries while maximizing individual dignity, freedom, and quality of life.

In fact, the Wisconsin Nursing Homes and Residents annual report shows that 24% of nursing home residents have fallen in the past 30 days, and 26% had fallen in the past 31 days to 180 days.

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