Objective: To determine whether occupational therapist home visits targeted at environmental hazards reduce the risk of falls.
Design: A randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Private dwellings in the community in Sydney, Australia.
Participants: A total of 530 subjects (mean age 77 years), recruited primarily before discharge from selected hospital wards.
Intervention: A home visit by an experienced occupational therapist, who assessed the home for environmental hazards and facilitated any necessary home modifications.
Measurements: The primary study outcome was falls, ascertained over a 12-month follow-up period using a monthly falls calendar.
Results: Thirty six percent of subjects in the intervention group had at least one fall during follow-up, compared with 45% of controls (P = .050). The intervention was effective only among subjects (n = 206) who reported having had one or more falls during the year before recruitment into the study; in this group, the relative risk of at least one fall during follow-up was 0.64 (95% confidence interval, 0.50-0.83). Similar results were obtained when falls data were analyzed using survival analysis techniques (proportional and multiplicative hazards models) and fall rates (mean number of falls per person per year). About 50% of the recommended home modifications were in place at a 12-month follow-up visit.
Conclusions: Home visits by occupational therapists can prevent falls among older people who are at increased risk of falling. However, the effect may not be caused by home modifications alone. Home visits by occupational therapists may also lead to changes in behavior that enable older people to live more safely in both the home and the external environment.