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Keywords:

  • falls;
  • fear of falling;
  • older people;
  • environment;
  • occupational therapy;
  • home assessment

OBJECTIVES:

To assess the effectiveness of an environmental falls prevention intervention delivered by qualified occupational therapists or unqualified trained assessors.

DESIGN: A pilot three-armed randomized controlled trial.

SETTING: Airedale National Health Service Trust catchment, North and West Yorkshire, England.

PARTICIPANTS: Two hundred thirty-eight community-dwelling adults aged 70 and older with a history of falls in the previous year.

INTERVENTION: Assessment and modification of the home environment of people at greater risk of falls.

MEASUREMENTS: Fear of falling was the primary outcome measure, and an analysis of covariance was conducted on the area under the curve at 12 months. As a secondary outcome, falls were analysed using negative binomial regression. Quality of life and independence in activities of daily living (ADLs) were also measured.

RESULTS: The intervention had no effect on fear of falling (P=.63). The occupational therapy group had significantly fewer falls than controls 12 months after the assessment (incidence rate ratio (IRR)=0.54, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.36–0.83, P=.005). There was no significant effect on falls in the trained assessor group (IRR=0.78, 95% CI=0.51–1.21, P=.34).

CONCLUSION: Environmental assessment had no effect on fear of falling. Environmental assessment prescribed by an occupational therapist significantly reduced the number of falls in high-risk individuals whereas that prescribed by a trained assessor did not. Further research in other settings is needed to confirm this, to explore the mechanisms, and to estimate cost-effectiveness.