Elderly falls assessment hits close to home for CQU researcher

08 April 2021

For Dr Samantha Fien's Grandma' even the simplest of tasks' like walking around her residential aged care facility' can prove extremely dangerous.

"Grandma's falls are so bad that she has to wear protective headgear - similar to a football player'" the CQUniversity Exercise and Sports Science Lecturer said.

"She has broken her hip' severely damaged the left side of her face' and is in constant fear of what will happen next time."

With falls costing the Australian healthcare system approximately $600 million per year' this situation is all too familiar.

However' Dr Fien is determined to help change the lives of the elderly' with a new CQUniversity research project – Falls assessment in older adults living in residential care.

"Despite the falls rate being much higher in residential aged care living' much of the current research into falls focuses on those in community-dwelling living'" Dr Fien said.

"Therefore' to help reduce burden and costs associated with falls' more targeted research on individuals in residential aged care is required."

The 12-month research project will be undertaken by Dr Fien and her colleagues Prof Steven Moore' Dr Crystal Kean' Dr Grace Vincent' Prof Corneel Vandelanotte' Dr Stephanie Alley (CQUniversity)' and Dr Justin Keogh (Bond University).

Dr Fien said the project' funded under the CQUniversity's New Staff Research Grants scheme' would involve 50 community-dwelling living and 50 residential aged care living volunteers.

"Falls been associated with impaired walking performance' postural stability' and vestibular function' all of which can lead to difficulties completing daily living activities'" Dr Fien said.

"Therefore' volunteers will participate in several non-invasive studies' via a phased approach' all aimed at testing an individual's walking performance' falls risk' and mobility level.

"One study' the Quantitative Timed Up and Go (QTUG) test' will require each volunteer to complete a short walking performance task (six metres) while wearing a Bluetooth device' designed to provide falls risk parameters and detailed patient reports."

Dr Fien said the outcomes of the research project would help to inform preventative strategies and lead to evidence-based changes to existing exercise guidelines for residential aged care living.

"The identification of high-risk individuals will allow for interventions to be implemented' that may improve quality of care and potentially reduce the number and severity of falls'" she said.

Dr Fien has spent her career working on research projects designed to help change the lives of the elderly and said this one was no different.

"No-one can escape getting old' so I have worked and will continue to work on research projects that contribute to a positive perception of residential aged care living' " she said.

Dr Fien is still seeking community-dwelling living volunteers' who are aged over 60' able to provide consent' and able to walk the required distance of the QTUG test' to participate in the research project.

For more information' email s.fien@cqu.edu.au