UAH College of Nursing partners with Center for Aging on fall-prevention study

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The UAH College of Nursing and the Center for Aging, Inc., recently held a press conference announcing a partnership to conduct a comprehensive research study to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly. The study is scheduled to begin in fall 2015. Pictured from left to right are Dr. Zaheer Khan, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and Dr. Karen Frith.

Michael Mercier | UAH

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Nursing and the Center for Aging, Inc., of Huntsville, Ala., recently partnered to conduct a comprehensive research study to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly. The study is scheduled to begin in fall 2015.

Serving as principal investigators for the project on the UAH campus will be Dr. Karen Frith, professor of Nursing and DNP coordinator, and Dr. Zaheer Khan, a geriatric specialist who founded the Center for Aging. Khan established a comprehensive community-based fall prevention program for the elderly, nearly 15 years ago. Assisting Dr. Frith with implementation of the fall study are co-investigators and nursing faculty members, Dr. Rose Linsky, and Amy Hunter.

The study will examine three key factors that contribute to the risk of falls in the elderly: polypharmacy (medication management), balance and coordination, and home safety. After a detailed medical history has been conducted on each person participating in the study, College of Nursing faculty and students will monitor patients for one year and chart their progress. All patient costs associated with the study will be paid by Medicare.

"Falls in the elderly are devastating," said Dr. Khan. "I deal with falls in my patients almost on a daily basis, and I developed the concept for the study to gain a better understanding of how seniors can significantly reduce their risk of falls and maintain an active and independent lifestyle."

According to Dr. Frith, falls are a significant health risk for adults over the age of 65, with one in three older adults falling each year.

"Falls with injury often result in emergency room visits, hospitalization, and long recovery periods. The best approach for fall prevention is to raise the awareness of older adults about ways to reduce their chances of falling, which include simple exercises to improve balance, removing hazards from their homes, and reducing the number of medications they take. Although the approach is simple, we believe that older adults who enroll in our study will improve with the guidance of health care providers from UAH, and the Center for Aging,"said Dr. Frith.

Additionally, Dr. Aleksandar Milenkovic (professor), and Dr. Emil Jovanov (associate professor), from the UAH Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will serve as co-investigators on the fall study, accurately gauging patient's progress with balance and motor skills.

Milenkovic and Jovanov, co-directors of mHealth Laboratory (a laboratory for mobile health and wellness monitoring) recently developed a smartphone application, which the nurse practitioners will use to record each patient's development with motor coordination throughout the study.

Below are a few facts about falls and the elderly:

  • One-third of adults above the age of 65 years fall each year. The likelihood of falling increases substantially with further increasing age.
  • Fall-related injuries are the leading cause of injury-related death and disability among older adults.
  • The most serious fall injury is hip fracture. One-half of older adults who are hospitalized for hip fracture never recover their former level of function.
  • Falls are one of the common causes for visits to the Emergency Room and for admission to the hospital. They are also a leading cause for admission to a nursing home.
  • Two-thirds of those who fall will experience another fall within six months.
  • Approximately one-half of all falls occur at home; therefore, it is critical to address home hazards which contribute to falls.

Seniors interested in participating in the fall prevention study, should contact the Center for Aging, Inc., (located at 3007 Memorial Parkway, Huntsville) or call 256.799.2500, Email or visit the website: www.centerforaging.net.


Contact

Joyce Anderson-Maples
joyce.maples@uah.edu
256.824.2101

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