Home-based exercise program improves balance

morag poster

Older people living with a diagnosis of dementia have a high risk of falls, with more than 60% falling annually and 40 percent having multiple falls. A quarter of hospital admissions for people living with dementia are due to falls and there is an increased risk of other adverse events such as mortality, morbidity and pavement in aged care facilities after a fall.

A recent study conducted by Dr Morag Taylor, Activity 19, published in International Psychogeriatrics, pp. 1–11. doi: 10.1017/S1041610216001629, has shown that a home-based exercise program can significantly improve balance in older people with cognitive decline.

Poor balance and depressive symptoms have been shown to increase the likelihood of falls in older people with dementia. In cognitively intact older people exercise has been demonstrated to reduce falls and improve mood; however there is little information available for people living with dementia.

This preliminary six-month study examined a home based, carer supported exercise program and measured mood and balance in people with mild to moderate dementia who were over 60 years of age. The study also examined concern about falls, physical activity and quality of life indicators.

All participants had an individually tailored exercise program that was primarily centered around balance and strength exercises. A physiotherapist visited regularly over the six month period and adherence to the program was monitored using exercise diaries.

The results of this pilot study found that following the six month intervention there was significant improvement in balance and although there was no detected improvement on mood, concern about falling was reduced.

Activity 19 is currently examining the feasibility and safety of using the Standing Tall application (exercise program delivered through a tablet computer) to engage older people with dementia in home-based exercise. A poster of this project was presented at the CDPC Annual Meeting.

Dr Morag Taylor, Activity 19 Project Officer