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Can community care workers deliver a falls prevention exercise program? A feasibility study

Authors Burton E, Lewin G, O'Connell H, Petrich M, Boyle E, Hill KD

Received 16 January 2018

Accepted for publication 15 February 2018

Published 26 March 2018 Volume 2018:13 Pages 485—495


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Elissa Burton,1 Gill Lewin,2 Hilary O’Connell,3 Mark Petrich,4,5 Eileen Boyle,1 Keith D Hill1

1School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 2School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 3Independent Living Centre Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 4Western Australian Department of Health, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 5School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Background: Almost half of older people receiving community care fall each year and this rate has not improved in the last decade. Falls prevention programs targeted at this group are uncommon, and expensively delivered by university trained allied health professionals.
Purpose: To investigate the feasibility of community care workers delivering a falls prevention exercise program to older clients, at low or medium risk of falling, as part of an existing service provision.
Patients and methods: Community care workers from 10 community care organizations participated in the training for, and delivery to their clients of, an 8-week evidence-based falls prevention exercise program. Community care workers included assessment staff (responsible for identifying the need for community care services through completing an assessment) and support workers (responsible for providing support in the home). Clients were surveyed anonymously at the completion of the intervention and workers participated in a semi-structured interview.
Twenty-five community care workers participated in the study. The falls prevention program was delivered to 29 clients, with an average age of 82.7 (SD: 8.72) years and consisting of 65.5% female. The intervention was delivered safely with no adverse events recorded, and the eligibility and assessment tools were completed by the majority of community care workers (93.1%). Assessment staff found it difficult to find time to deliver the intervention. Support workers were able to complete the intervention within their current service delivery period, with the initial assessment taking a small amount of additional time. Support workers reported enjoying the additional responsibility afforded by delivering the falls prevention program and seeing changes in their clients. The majority of clients (82%) reported enjoying the exercises, with 59% reporting that they felt it made a positive change in their health. Clients completed the exercises on average 4.8 (SD: 2.2) days per week.
Conclusion: Community care workers who have completed appropriate training are able to deliver a falls prevention exercise program to their clients as part of their current services. Further research is required to determine whether the program reduces the rate of falls for community care clients and whether integration of a falls prevention program into an existing service is cost-effective.

Keywords: strength, balance, pragmatic research, home and community care services, Regional Assessment Service (RAS), safety

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