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Assessing Risk of Falling in Older Adults—A Comparison of Three Methods

Authors

  • Steve Strupeit PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Professor, Department 11, Applied Social Sciences, University of Applied Sciences Munich, München, Germany
    • Address correspondence to Professor Steve Strupeit, Department 11, Applied Social Sciences, University of Applied Sciences Munich, Am Stadtpark 20, 81243 München, Germany; strupeit@hm.edu

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  • Arne Buss BA, MScN,

    1. Research Associate, Department 7, Health Care Research, Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP), University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
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  • Karin Wolf-Ostermann PhD

    1. Professor, Department 7, Health Care Research, Institute for Public Health and Nursing Research (IPP), University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany
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ABSTRACT

Background

Various risk assessment methods have been developed to assess fall risk. Diagnostic accuracy of fall risk assessments is low and there is a scarcity of evidence regarding clinical effectiveness.

Aims

The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy and clinical effectiveness of a standardized fall risk assessment relative to clinical and self-report assessment.

Methods

A single-site, prospective, longitudinal study was performed in a group of geriatric patients. Participants were patients being admitted to a geriatric rehabilitation hospital. The St. Thomas's risk assessment tool (STRATIFY), clinical assessment, and a self-report assessment (fear of falling) were used to assess fall risk at two time points (at baseline and 3-week follow-up). The primary outcome was fall events. Contingency tables were used to calculate sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive values, and negative predictive values. Fisher's exact test was used to test the association between assessments and fall events.

Results

A total of 124 patients participated in the study. The self-report technique demonstrated the highest sensitivity and negative predictive validity. The STRATIFY tool showed the highest specificity but the lowest sensitivity. The self-report technique was associated with a lower number of fall events.

Discussion

Given the lack of diagnostic accuracy of all three assessment techniques and the lack of evidence regarding clinical effectiveness, the usefulness of these fall risk assessments can be challenged.

Implications for Practice

At least in settings in which fall prevention programs are a part of standard care, additional time consuming assessments may not be required.

Linking Evidence to Action

It is questionable whether time-consuming assessments examined in this study are necessary. Further studies are needed to examine the diagnostic accuracy and clinical effectiveness of fall risk assessments.

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