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Is Your Mobility Device Increasing Your Risk Of Falling?

Posted by Cody on 06/16/2015

Is Your Mobility Device Increasing Your Risk Of Falling?

    About one-quarter of adults ages 65 years and older used mobility devices such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs in 2011, and about one-third of that group reported using multiple devices, according to a recent study.

    Findings did not link the use of any type of mobility device, or use of multiple devices with an increased risk of falling. However, researchers found people who used canes only were more likely to report limiting their activities because of worries about falling.

    Results from the study, published May 6 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, indicate the percentage of older adults using mobility devices has increased in recent years, and the use of multiple devices is common.

    “Staying active is a key component to staying healthy and maintaining mobility and function,” lead author Nancy Gell, PhD, PT, MPH, said in a news release. “It’s important for people to use the device that best matches their needs in order to stay as mobile as possible, but safely.”

    Investigators analyzed data from the 2011-12 National Health & Aging Trends Study. The study group included a nationally representative sample of 7,609 community-dwelling adults ages 65 and older. In-person interviews were conducted in the participants’ homes at baseline.

    Study participants were asked about their use of mobility devices including canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters during the past month, and how long they had used each mobility device. They also answered a series of questions: whether they had fallen in the past year, if they have fallen more than once during the past year, if in the past month they had worried about falling, and whether their worry limited their activities.

    At the one year follow-up, participants were asked the same questions during an interview.

    In 2011, 8.5 million U.S. adults ages 65 and older (24%) reported using a mobility device during the past month, the study found. A cane was the most commonly used device, at 16.4% of the total population, and the least commonly used device was a scooter (2.3%), findings showed.

    Women of any age group were more likely to use any type of device than men, with a 19% to 29% difference depending on age group. Of women ages 90 and older, 75.6% reported using some type of mobility device in the past month, according to the study. Canes, walkers and wheelchairs were used by a greater percentage of women than men in all age groups; however, results showed more men than women ages 75 and older used electric scooters.

    Researchers found mobility device use increased with advanced age. Findings also showed device use was associated with nonwhite race and ethnicity, obesity, lower education level, pain, greater comorbidities, and impairment of balance and coordination.

    The study found incident falls and multiple falls were more common among study participants who had a history of using devices and a history of falls. Overall, mobility device users were more likely to worry about falling than nonusers, according to the study. Findings also showed activity-limiting worry about falling was 30% greater in those who used a cane only than in nondevice users.

    “Although canes are prescribed appropriately in many circumstances, the significantly higher percentage of cane users reporting mobility restriction because of fear of falling suggests a potential mismatch between the device and the user,” the authors wrote, adding that canes might be prescribed more than other devices because they are low profile, easy to use and transport, and inexpensive.

    “Repeated assessments after mobility device prescription would help identify changes in mobility (e.g., greater with external support, reduced because of fear of falling) and need for alternative device prescription or other interventions such as rehabilitation or referral to community fall prevention classes,” they wrote.

    An abstract from the study was presented at the American Physical Therapy Association’s conference in February in Indianapolis. Co-authors include Tracy M. Mroz, PhD, OTR/L, of the rehabilitation medicine department at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Full study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jgs.13393/full

Bonnie Benton. 5/12/2015. Use of mobility devices rising among older adults, study finds. Today In PT. Retrieved May 28,2015. http://blog.todayinpt.com/mobility-devices-older-adults/