Skip Navigation LinksHome > April 2003 - Volume 82 - Issue 4 > Clinical Prediction of Falls in the Elderly
American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation:
Research Articles: Aging

Clinical Prediction of Falls in the Elderly

Ruchinskas, Robert PsyD

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Ruchinskas R: Clinical prediction of falls in the elderly. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2003;82:273–278.

Objective: To assess the ability of physical and occupational therapists engaged in rehabilitation of the elderly to predict posttreatment falls.

Design: Prospective cohort study of 15 mo in duration at an urban academic medical center rehabilitation unit. A total of 165 consecutively admitted geriatric individuals were rated for fall risk by 14 physical and seven occupational therapists. Measurements included the Mini-Mental State Examination, Geriatric Depression Scale, FIM™, and therapists’ ratings of fall likelihood.

Results: Both disciplines evidenced an ability to predict who would fall in the 3 mo after discharge. Clinical judgment regarding fall risk, however, added little value over two major predictors of future falls, fall history and the presence of a neurologic condition.

Conclusion: Trying to predict an infrequent future event such as falls is inherently difficult. Education regarding known fall-risk factors and inclusion of standardized measurements of physical status are recommended to potentially improve rates of detection, along with adoption of a realistic attitude regarding our abilities to forecast infrequent events.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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