Background: frail older people have a high risk of falling.
Objective: assess the effect of a frailty intervention on risk factors for falls and fall rates in frail older people.
Design: randomised controlled trial.
Participants: 241 community-dwelling people aged 70+ without severe cognitive impairment who met the Cardiovascular Health Study frailty definition.
Intervention: multifactorial, interdisciplinary intervention targeting frailty characteristics with an individualised home exercise programme prescribed in 10 home visits from a physiotherapist and interdisciplinary management of medical, psychological and social problems.
Measurements: risk factors for falls were measured using the Physiological Profile Assessment (PPA) and mobility measures at 12 months by a blinded assessor. Falls were monitored with calendars.
Results: participants had a mean (SD) age of 83.3 (5.9) years, 68% were women and 216 (90%) completed the study. After 12 months the intervention group had significantly better performance than the control group, after controlling for baseline values, in the PPA components of quadriceps strength (between-group difference 1.84 kg, 95% CI 0.17-3.51, P = 0.03) and body sway (-90.63 mm, 95% CI -168.6 to -12.6, P = 0.02), short physical performance battery (1.58, 95% CI 1.02-2.14, P ≤ 0.001) and 4 m walk (0.06 m/s 95% CI 0.01-0.10, P = 0.02) with a trend toward a better total PPA score (-0.40, 95% CI -0.83-0.04, P = 0.07) but no difference in fall rates (incidence rate ratio 1.12, 95% CI 0.78-1.63, P = 0.53).
Conclusion: the intervention improved performance on risk factors for falls but did not reduce the rate of falls.
Trial registration: ACTRN12608000250336.
Keywords: exercise; falls; frail elderly; older people; randomised controlled trial.
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