Background and Purpose: Developing a practical fall risk assessment tool to predict the occurrence of falls in the primary care setting is important because investigators have reported deterioration of physical function associated with falls. Researchers have used many performance tests to predict the occurrence of falls. These performance tests predict falls and also assess physical function and determine exercise interventions. However, the need for such specialists as physical therapists to accurately conduct these tests limits their use in the primary care setting. Questionnaires for fall prediction offer an easy way to identify high-risk fallers without requiring specialists. Using an existing fall assessment questionnaire, this study aimed to identify items specific to physical function and determine whether those items were able to predict falls and estimate physical function of high-risk fallers.
Methods: The analysis consisted of both retrospective and prospective studies and used 2 different samples (retrospective, n = 1871; prospective, n = 292). The retrospective study and 3-month prospective study comprised community-dwelling individuals aged 65 years or older and older adults using community day centers. The number of falls, risk factors for falls (15 risk factors on the questionnaire), and physical function determined by chair standing test (CST) and Timed Up and Go Test (TUGT) were assessed. The retrospective study selected fall risk factors related to physical function. The prospective study investigated whether the number of selected risk factors could predict falls. The predictive power was determined using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve.
Results: Seven of the 15 risk factors were related to physical function. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for the sum of the selected risk factors of previous falls plus the other risk factors was 0.82 (P = .00). The best cutoff point was 4 risk factors, with sensitivity and specificity of 84% and 68%, respectively. The mean values for the CST and TUGT at the best cutoff point were 12.9 and 12.5 seconds, respectively. In the retrospective study, the values for the CST and TUGT corresponding to the best cutoff point from the prospective study were 13.2 and 11.4 seconds, respectively.
Discussion: This study confirms that a screening tool comprising 7 fall risk factors can be used to predict falls. The values for the CST and TUGT corresponding to the best cutoff point for the selected 7 risk factors determined in our prospective study were similar to the cutoff points for the CST and TUGT in previous studies for fall prediction. We propose that the sum of the selected risk factors of previous falls plus the other risk factors may be identified as the estimated value for physical function.
Conclusions: These findings may contribute to earlier identification of high-risk fallers and intervention for fall prevention.