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Intraindividual Changes in Ambulation Associated With Falls in a Population of Vulnerable Older Adults in Long-Term Care

      Abstract

      Objective

      To examine how intraindividual changes in ambulation characteristics may be used to predict falls.

      Design

      Longitudinal study design.

      Setting

      Assisted living facility.

      Participants

      Ambulatory older adults (N=26; mean age, 79y).

      Interventions

      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Continuous measure of average weekly ambulation characteristics (time and distance walked, speed, path measures [eg, path time and distance, number of paths (where a path is at least 60s of uninterrupted walking separated by at least a 30-s stop)]), accounting for weekly changes in these ambulation characteristics on an individual level over time along with falls (yes/no) and cognitive impairment (CI) (measured by the Montreal Cognitive Assessment).

      Results

      In hierarchical linear models accounting for intraindividual changes in ambulation characteristics over the 8-month course of the study and level of CI, path distance (odds ratio, 1.02; P≤.001) was associated with an increased risk of a fall. In the short-term, intraindividual changes in path distance were associated with a fall within the 4-week interval the change was noted. Path distance had fair sensitivity (.74) and specificity (.66) to a fall (area under the curve, .70).

      Conclusions

      Study findings suggest that falls may have specific predictors, specifically that older adults with CI are more likely to fall when walking continuously with little/no breaks. Interventions focused on reducing path-associated fatigue may effectively reduce fall incidence in this population.

      Keywords

      List of abbreviations:

      CI (cognitive impairment), IRB (Institutional Review Board), LTC (long-term care), MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment), OR (odds ratio), RTLS (real-time location system)
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