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Not all falls risks fit the mould: The Physio Perspective

8 July 2021

While every patient at every stage of their admission is a falls risk, each clinical profession has a key role to play to ensure the safe transition from hospital to home.

Princess Alexandra Hospital Physiotherapist, Thomas Petrie, says many factors are considered by physiotherapists when assessing a patient’s risk of falls in hospital.

“Age, cognitive status, pain, strength, sensation, medication and nutritional status, among other things are all essential to assessing a patient’s falls risk.

“What makes it challenging is many of these key factors will fluctuate through admission.

For Physios, function, strength and balance training are the main areas of focus.

“With inpatients, physiotherapy aims to assess and aid management of mobility which can be modified for the individual to help them regain muscle strength, endurance and balance with functional exercises,” he says.

“We also focus on educating the patient and their support network on managing risk factors for falls or further injury at home.”

Thomas says the reality is that all patients are at risk of falls but not all falls risks fit the perceived mould:

  • Young patients who may have been admitted for an injury through risk taking behaviour are a well identified risk in the acute trauma setting.
  • Frailty increases with age; the elderly population tend to be more susceptible to changes that can occur from being unwell or in an unfamiliar environment such as hospital.Patients with delirium or other temporary or permanent cognitive impairment are also particularly vulnerable as they may lack the appropriate insight into what is safe or not safe to undertake without help.
  • Rehabilitation patients who have had a significant event such as an amputation, spinal cord or brain injury are at an especially high risk as they are learning new skills. This is particularly relevant for the long-stay rehabilitation wards at PA Hospital.
  • Thomas said said physiotherapists from acute areas as well as rehabilitation wards have the same aim to reduce falls risks for each patient, but the approach may be very different.

The benefit of the rehabilitation setting is it allows these vulnerable patients more time and opportunity to address some of the modifiable risk factors for falls after their illness or injury, and every member of the multidisciplinary team plays an important role in reducing these risks.”

Last updated 8 July 2021
Last reviewed 8 July 2021

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