Identification and quantification of risk of falls in cognitively impaired older adults [ 2007 - 2010 ]

Research Grant

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Researchers: Prof Stephen Lord (Principal investigator) ,  Prof Jacqueline Close

Brief description This study represents the first systematic approach to understanding the complex interaction of factors that contribute to risk of falling in cognitively impaired older people. The results will provide much needed information on how to intervene to prevent falls and fractures in this high risk population. In the last decade, 25 randomised controlled trials have been published which show it is possible to prevent falls in older people. However, a major disappointing outcome of research in this field is that trials that have included or specifically focused on older people with cognitive impairment have been unsuccessful in preventing falls. Cognitive impairment has long been known to be a major risk factor for falls and fractures but little research has been undertaken to understand the underlying mechanisms as to why this is the case. It is likely that previous falls prevention trials involving people with cognitive impairment were unsuccessful because they did not directly assess mechanisms for falls in this group and simply translated intervention strategies from studies undertaken in cognitively intact older people. This study aims to develop our understanding of the important factors that contribute to risk of falling in older people with cognitive impairment and dementia. Participants will be recruited from a number of sources including hospitals, out-patient clinics, retirement villages, hostels etc. Whilst some participants will be able to consent to take part, all participants must have a nominated person responsible. Consenting participants will undergo a series of assessments, the majority of which can be undertaken in their own home. These will include medical and medication history, measures of gait and balance and tests assessing performance of different regions of the brain. An MRI scan will allow us to determine whether risk of falling relates to any specific pathology in different parts of the brain. We anticipate that we will be able to identify which risk factors and underlying mechanisms are most strongly associated with falling in cognitively impaired older people. We then hope to use the information to design targeted and tailored intervention strategies to reduce falls and fractures in this high risk population.

Funding Amount $AUD 530,741.28

Funding Scheme NHMRC Strategic Awards

Notes Dementia Research Grants Program

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