A pilot study of falls, fear of falling, activity levels and fall prevention actions in older people with polio

Keith D. Hill, Amber T. Stinson

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Background and aims: Polio survivors are ageing, and reporting new complications including falls. The aims of this study were: 1) to determine the frequency of falls, circumstances surrounding them, and the consequences of falls in older people who have polio; and 2) to investigate the range of fall prevention interventions undertaken to reduce the individual's risk of falling. Methods: A survey was conducted of members of the Eastern Polio Support Group of Victoria. Twenty-eight respondents (70%; 7 male, 21 female) had a mean age of 66 years and an average duration of 57 years since the onset of polio. The survey addressed demographic data, mobility, frequency and description of falls over the last 12 months, their consequences, and community services utilized. The Modified Falls Efficacy Scale (MFES) and Human Activity Profile (HAP) were also completed. Comparative data on the MFES and HAP were obtained from age- and gender-matched healthy community-dwelling older people. Results: Fourteen respondents (50%) reported one or more falls over the past 12 months, half reporting multiple falls. Two-thirds of falls occurred while walking. Of those who fell, 67% did not require medical attention. The highest percentage of injuries were bruises or grazes (44%), with one fracture reported. Sixty-one percent reported being fearful of falling, with an average WES of 7.4 (±2.0), compared with the average of 9.7 (±0.5) for the age- and gender-matched controls (p<0.05). Only 5 of the respondents reported changing their level of activity as the result of a fall. A significant difference was identified on the Adjusted Activity Score (AAS) of the HAP between polio non-fallers (mean 56.3±19.1), polio fallers (mean 40.1± 15.6) and age- and gender-matched controls (mean 73.5±10.3) (F2,46=25.5, p=0.000). The median number of fall prevention activities undertaken in the previous 12 months was one, 11 of the 28 respondents undertaking two or more. The most common interventions implemented were vision checks (42%) and review of medications by a doctor (25%). Conclusions: A high rate of failing, fear of falling and low activity levels exist in older people with polio. There is a need for further research and clinical programs to reduce falls and injuries in this group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-131
Number of pages6
JournalAging Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Balance training
  • Fall prevention
  • Falls
  • Health status
  • Older people with polio
  • Poliomyelitis

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