Baker, N.1,2,3, Grimmer, K2., & Gordon, S1,2,3.
1 Caring Futures Institute, Flinders University, 2College of Nursing & Health Sciences, Flinders University, 3 ARC Research Hub for Digital Enhanced Living, Deakin University, Victoria
Background and aims: Maintaining good balance is essential to healthy ageing, injury prevention and quality of life. Balance testing is established for opposite populations: known fallers and elite athletes. However, there remains no standard way to test functional balance in community dwelling, middle or older aged adults who have no diagnosed neurological deficit, overt pathology and are not known fallers. This study investigates balance performance for people in this category.
Methods: This cross-section, observational study was conducted in the community with local government and business. Participants provided informed consent, responded to surveys reporting fall or near-miss events in the past 6 months, then undertook progressively more challenging static, dynamic and functional balance activities. For safety, unsuccessful attempts precluded progression to more challenging tasks. Odds Ratios (OR) and sensitivity/specificity were calculated, and Pearson’s correlation coefficient classified the relationship between completed tasks and fall status.
Results: Participants who had identified a stumble or near-miss were more than twice as likely as non-fallers to fail key static and dynamic balance tasks (OR 2.77) and functional tasks (OR 3.16).
Conclusions: ‘Stumble’ or ‘near-miss’ participants were less strong and agile than non-fallers, although neither group had fallen. The identification of middle or older age adults who experience stumbles, trips or near miss events provides an opportunity for early screening, intervention and prevention of potential falls.
Nicky Baker is a PhD student at Flinders University investigating stumbles and trips to prevent falls, something very relevant to her physiotherapy clinical background. Nicky also coordinates placements for final year Health Science students in a variety of health settings to provide authentic work integrated learning.
Nicky has 30 years physiotherapy clinical experience, leaving SALHN Rehabilitation, Aged and Palliative Care in 2019 to pursue full time academic study. Through her career she has held senior clinical roles in acute, rehabilitation and community settings. Highlights include the implementation of standardized aquatic physiotherapy training in the Victorian Chapter of Australian Physiotherapy Association, roll out of the South Australian State Stroke Plan at FMC, and implementing Electronic Medical Records and Telerehabilitation in Home Rehabilitation at SALHN.
Nicky is keen to keep research and clinical practice relevant by focusing always on the client, and modelling interprofessional practice and person centred care.