Page 18-19 - NeuRA 2013 in Review

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Falls are a major age-related health challenge, with about one third of
older people falling at least once a year. Falls can significantly impact
quality of life and can also incur major costs for health and social care.
Over the last year, NeuRA researchers have developed iPad apps that
help GPs and clinicians assess whether their patients are at risk of falling.
So far, these apps look at two methods of assessing risk of falls: fear of
falling and postural sway.
Fear of falling is very common in older adults, and is associated
with higher rates of falls. While there are several instruments already
available to measure fear of falling in older adults, the iPad app developed
at NeuRA, called iconFES, is the first one to use pictures to gauge the
level of concern people have about falling in daily situations. For example,
the iconFES app asks a user how comfortable they feel walking on a
slippery surface while showing them a picture of a person walking on a
wet floor. The user then indicates how concerned they are about falling
in that situation on a four-point scale using icons of smiley faces.
The iconFES app allows a GP or clinician to perform a fear of
falling assessment quickly and reliably, which can then be shared with
the patient immediately. The data collected via the iconFES app can
also be used to create fall prevention strategies. Trials of the app indicate
that people find it both simple and fun.
Physical activity levels often reduce as people age, which is
associated with a reduced quality of life and independence. Our
researchers have developed another app, called IPEQ, that assesses
weekly physical activity levels in older adults on two levels – planned
activities, which focusses on exercise and walks that were arranged
in advance, and incidental activities, which focusses on casual, day-
to-day activities. The IPEQ app gives clinicians the opportunity to
assess physical activity levels more regularly in their older patients and
ascertain whether their patients have taken up exercise. The IPEQ app
can also identify activities that need a stronger focus as part of a falls
prevention program to reduce fall risk in older adults.
There are plans to release a series of apps that will measure other
factors known to be associated with falling, such as response time,
balance and cognitive performance.
We believe every Australian should be able to age
independently, ideally in their home environment.
(top left) Karl Hillebrand uses a balance exercise
program, developed by NeuRA’s research physiotherapists,
to be used at home; (top right) Marje Donohoe rests after
undertaking balance and strength exercises in her home;
(bottom) Dr Kim Delbaere tests the iconFES iPad app.
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