Do Walking Aids Make Any Difference?

Rollator - Mobility Aids Assistive Technology

Do Walking Aids Make Any Difference?

An interesting bit of research! | Falls prevention and elderly people

In a relatively recent study published in the journal The Gerontologist  (2017)  the authors set out to prove or disprove that,  among people who fall whilst at home, most do not have an assistive device with them when they fall. They wanted to know if non-users who had a fall sustained more severe injuries. The research conducted in Michigan (USA) involved 262 people aged 60 and older who were community dwelling, cognitively intact, and who were in fact current users of walking devices - either canes or walkers (rollators) - with a history of falls. The report of the study detailed outcomes of interest which included patterns of device use, reasons for non-use, device use at time of fall, and fall-related injuries.

The results as published in the journal were as follows:

(Summary)

Seventy-five percent of respondents who fell were not using their device at the time of fall... Reasons for non-use included believing it was not needed, forgetfulness, the device made them feel old, and inaccessibility. Perceived risk was not high enough to engage in self-protective behaviour. However, non-use led to a significantly higher proportion of falls resulting in surgery than among device users. Among respondents requiring surgery, 100% were nonusers. Most respondents never received a home safety evaluation (68%) and only 50% received training on proper device use.

The authors go on to describe how people

…do not consistently use their canes or walkers, especially in their own homes where most falls occur, despite the majority believing that their device can help prevent a fall. They reported that instead, people steady themselves by holding on to walls and furniture, in part due to believing that their device is not needed in the familiar home environment.  They found that respondents undervalued the relevance of device-use to their own safety. The data indicated that even believing a device reduces falls, doesn’t necessarily guarantee device use, that is, attributed importance of device use,  did not appear to be related to use at time of fall.

The authors conclude that this suggests “that the success of any rehabilitation program may depend on moving people toward accepting their own risk to the extent that they are willing to take protective action”.

The problem and prevalence of falls in Australia

The Australian Ageing Agenda  reports that the rate of injuries caused by falls among older Australians has increased over the last decade, with more than 100,000 older Australians hospitalised because of a fall last year.

They state that falls are a major health issue in the community with around 30% of adults over 65 experiencing at least one fall per year – and this is set to increase as Australia’s population ages with the proportion of people aged over 65 predicted to increase from 14% (3 million people) in 2010 to 23% (8.1 million people) in 2050.

Falls are financially costly to society and to the health system,  but in terms of morbidity and mortality, the serious fall-related injuries such as hip fracture and head injuries are  devastating for elderly people and their families. Elderly people recover slowly from hip fractures and are vulnerable to post-operative and bed rest complications. Falls expert Lindy Clemson, Professor of Ageing and Occupational Therapy at Sydney University, said the increase in the injury rate is concerning.

“This trend for increasing traumatic brain injury from falls in older people- and mortality – is being seen in other countries, like Canada,” she told Community Care Review.  “The outcome and recovery following head injury is often much poorer. Increasing age and comorbidities have also been linked to these (injuries).

And Implications?

The researchers in the study described above, concluded that providers must place increased emphasis on the importance of cane/walker use for injury prevention through patient education to promote personal relevance, and proper fitting, and training. New strategies are needed to improve device acceptability and accessibility.

Exercise/strengthening as falls prevention

In Australia, major success has been attributed to the Stepping On Program , which is a seven week program designed for people who are living at home and have experienced a fall, or are concerned about falling. The program is an evidence-based program that is effective and proven to reduce falls in older people living in the community. It incorporates strategies to implement positive lifestyle changes to keep older people independent, upright and active. The research evidence has proven that Stepping On reduces falls by 31% in the community.

The KMINA Indoor Rollator – what is so special about it?

Gong Life Care Solutions supplies a very light-weight but strong, folding rollator walker.   https://gonglcs.com.au/products/kmina-rollator

Our KMINA rollator is especially designed for use in the home, and contributes to a user’s sense of independence and safety walking around at home. People with conventional outdoor wheely walkers often abandon their use of the rollator indoors, as they can be heavy and wide and difficult to manoeuvre in the home.  However, our KMINA rollator, at just 54cm in width, is narrow enough to easily get through doorways and around furniture. It has a single handlebar, which is easy to manage and really assists stability, balance and manoeuvrability. There are 5 click-in height adjustment settings, which are easily managed.

Users love this rollator because it weighs only 5.5kgs and it folds and unfolds easily for putting into the boot of the car, or storing in the house when not in use. It has a cable braking system and the brakes can be applied by either hand, or both hands. Another feature that users find really convenient is the flat stable tray top which comes in very handy when preparing food or a drink, and taking it to another room. And of course, the basket helps the user to carry items around the home.

Our quality walker is certified by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and European Conformity (CE).  It is designed for people who have moderate to low dependence, who are able to walk with some assistance, but desire more independence around the home. The KMINA rollator will improve a user’s confidence in moving around safely in the home and promote their independence and sense of well-being. 

Using a walking aid can increase your steadiness and confidence to walk more. It is important that walking aids are properly adjusted for you, and that they are properly maintained.

Always consult a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist for advice on using your rollator safely, adjusting it appropriately for your height, and how to manage it when transferring to a seated position eg to a chair or the toilet, etc.

Our friendly team members would be very happy to talk with you on the phone.  Call us if you would like to enquire about the KMINA Indoor Rollator.

You can also check the Gong Life Care Solutions website,   https://gonglcs.com.au/products/kmina-rollator or like us on our social media sites.

Reference

  1. Luz, Clare, et al, The Gerontologist, Volume 57, Issue 2, 1 April 2017, Pages 211–218, Published: 25 July 2015 https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnv096
  2. The Australian Ageing Agenda https://www.australianageingagenda.com.au/2019/09/19/rate-of-falls-related-injuries-on-the-increase
  3. Stepping On https://www.steppingon.com/research

 

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