Introduction: Fall risk is a major contributor to fracture risk; implementing fall reduction programmes remains a challenge for health professionals and policy-makers.
Materials and methods: We aimed to (1) ascertain whether the care received by 54 older adults after an emergency department (ED) fall presentation met internationally recommended 'Guideline Care', and (2) prospectively evaluate this cohort's 6-month change in fall risk profile. Participants were men and women aged 70 years or older who were discharged back into the community after presenting to an urban university tertiary-care hospital emergency department with a fall-related complaint. American Geriatric Society (AGS) guideline care was documented by post-presentation emergency department chart examination, daily patient diary of falls submitted monthly, patient interview and physician reconciliation where needed. Both at study entry and at a 6-month followup, we measured participants physiological characteristics by Lord's Physiological Profile Assessment (PPA), functional status, balance confidence, depression, physical activity and other factors.
Results: We found that only 2 of 54 (3.7%) of the fallers who presented to the ED received care consistent with AGS Guidelines. Baseline physiological fall risk scores classified the study population at a 1.7 SD higher risk than a 65-year-old comparison group, and during the 6-month followup period the mean fall-risk score increased significantly (i.e. greater risk of falls) (1.7+/-1.6 versus 2.2+/-1.6, p=0.000; 29.5% greater risk of falls). Also, functional ability [100 (15) versus 95 (25), p=0.002], balance confidence [82.5 (44.4) versus 71.3 (58.7), p=0.000] and depression [0 (2) versus 0 (3), p=0.000] all worsened over 6 months. Within 6 months of the index ED visit, five participants had suffered six fall-related fractures.
Discussion: We conclude that this group of community-dwelling fallers, who presented for ED care with a clinical profile suggesting a high risk of further falls and fracture, did not receive Guideline care and worsened in their fall risk profile by 29.5%. This gap in care, at least in one centre, suggests further investigation into alternative approaches to delivering Guideline standard health service.