Report on vitamin D and falls reduction

care worker and older woman outside

It has been shown that vitamin D supplements can reduce the rate of falls in residential aged care. A CDPC project that aimed to increase the use of vitamin D supplements has released a final summary report.

With one in two people suffering from the complications of falls in residential aged care the use of vitamin D to mitigate this is an important initiative, as less than half of those in residential aged care receive vitamin D supplements.

The project lead investigator, Professor Ian Cameron, a physician and Chair in Rehabilitation Medicine at University of Sydney's Medical School said vitamin D is needed by our muscles and also plays an important role in the absorption of calcium for stronger bones.

Professor Cameron said vitamin D deficiency is a major issue in residential aged care, as residents do not spend enough time in the sun to produce vitamin D naturally.

While exercise is the key strategy to prevent falls among older people living in the community, "vitamin D supplement use is the most effective single intervention for the prevention of falls for older people living in residential aged care," Professor Cameron said.

The Final Summary Report, "Final Summary Report, Focus on the implementation of vitamin D supplements in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities", outlines the strategies that were used, and the key findings with respect to the change in vitamin D supplement use, and the barriers to aged care residents receiving supplements.

The project's multifaceted implementation strategy was trialled at 41 aged care facilities in NSW and SA, and resulted in an increase of the overall proportion of residents receiving adequate vitamin D supplementation (≥800IU/day) by 4.6% over 18 months.

The report's authors, Ms Pippy Walker, Dr Annette Kifley and Professor Cameron set out to test the efficacy of this intervention after learning of successful trials in New Zealand and Canada. Key stakeholders and strategies relevant to the Australian aged care setting were identified in the planning phase of this study.

The study's key stakeholders included medical professionals, allied health professionals, facility care and support staff, residents and their families. Stakeholders were provided with the latest evidence, with access to educational resources and face-to-face or online module training for care staff.

"Based on the findings of the study we have developed a number of recommendations for consideration by key stakeholder groups," Ms Walker said.

"To ensure the ongoing use of vitamin D supplements by residents in aged care facilities we need a multi-level approach, and cannot rely solely on individual facilities. There needs to be system level support for the uptake of this evidence in clinical practice," she said.

The report recommends community health campaigns to raise awareness about the role of vitamin D in falls prevention for the community and aged care providers, and that nurse practitioners, pharmacists and physiotherapists could play a greater role in identifying residents for vitamin D supplementation.

Final Summary Report, Focus on the implementation of vitamin D supplements in Australian Residential Aged Care Facilities
CDPC vitamin D resources webpage