Characterisation of institutionalised Portuguese older adult fallers: is there a place for pharmacist intervention? A preliminary study

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Older adults, Falls, Pharmacist, Polypharmacy, Potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs), Long-term care facilities


Background: Falls are a major public health issue, given their prevalence and social impact. Older adults living in long-term care facilities (LTCF) are at greater risk of injury resulting from a fall due to multiple factors, such as nutritional, functional/cognitive impairment, postural instability, polypharmacy, and the presence of potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs). Medication management in LTCF is complex and often sub-optimal and might be crucial for falls. Pharmacist intervention is important, since they have a unique knowledge of medication. However, studies mapping the impact of pharmaceutical activities in Portuguese LTC settings are scarce. Objective: This study aims to assess the characteristics of older adult fallers living in LTFCs and examine the relationship between falling and several factors in this population. We also intend to explore the prevalence of PIMs and their relationship with the occurrence of falls. Methods: The study was conducted in two long-term care facilities for elderly people, in the central region of Portugal. We included patients aged 65 and older with no reduced mobility or physical weakness and with the ability to understand spoken and written Portuguese. The following information was assessed: sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidities, polypharmacy, fear of falling, functional, nutritional and cognitive status. PIMs were evaluated according to the Beers criteria (2019). Results: A total of 69 institutionalised older adults, 45 women and 24 men, with a mean age of 83.14 ± 8.87 years were included. The prevalence of falls was 21.74% Out of these, 46.67% (n=7) fell once, 13.33% (n=2) fell twice, and 40% (n=6) fell 3 or more times. Fallers were mainly women, had lower levels of education, were well nourished, had moderate to severe levels of dependence, and displayed moderate cognitive impairment. All adult fallers had a fear of falling. The main comorbidities of this population were related to the cardiovascular system. Polypharmacy was present in every patient, and at least one PIM was identified in 88.41% of the subjects. Fear of falling (FOF) and cognitive impairment (in subjects with 1 to 11 years of education) showed statistically significant associations with the occurrence of falls (p=0.005 and p=0.05, respectively). No significant differences were found between fallers and non-fallers for any other factors. Conclusions: This present study is a preliminary contribution to characterise a group of older adult fallers living in Portuguese LTCFs and demonstrated that fear of falling and cognitive impairment are associated with the occurrence of falls in this population. The high prevalence of polypharmacy and PIMs emphasises the need for tailored interventions featuring the collaboration of a pharmacist to optimise medication management in this population.


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