Are older people putting themselves at risk when using their walking frames?

Thies, SBA ORCID:, Bates, AV, Costamagna, E, Kenney, LPJ ORCID:, Granat, MH ORCID:, Webb, J ORCID:, Howard, D ORCID:, Baker, RD ORCID: and Dawes, H 2020, 'Are older people putting themselves at risk when using their walking frames?' , BMC Geriatrics, 20 (1) , p. 90.

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Background Walking aids are issued to older adults to prevent falls, however, paradoxically their use has been identified as a risk factor for falling. To prevent falls, walking aids must be used in a stable manner, but it remains unknown to what extent associated clinical guidance is adhered to at home, and whether following guidance facilitates a stable walking pattern. It was the aim of this study to investigate adherence to guidance on walking frame use, and to quantify user stability whilst using walking frames. Additionally, we explored the views of users and healthcare professionals on walking aid use, and regarding the instrumented walking frames (‘Smart Walkers’) utilized in this study. Methods This observational study used Smart Walkers and pressure-sensing insoles to investigate usage patterns of 17 older people in their home environment; corresponding video captured contextual information. Additionally, stability when following, or not, clinical guidance was quantified for a subset of users during walking in an Activities of Daily Living Flat and in a gait laboratory. Two focus groups (users, healthcare professionals) shared their experiences with walking aids and provided feedback on the Smart Walkers. Results Incorrect use was observed for 16% of single support periods and for 29% of dual support periods, and was associated with environmental constraints and a specific frame design feature. Incorrect use was associated with reduced stability. Participants and healthcare professionals perceived the Smart Walker technology positively. Conclusions Clinical guidance cannot easily be adhered to and self-selected strategies reduce stability, hence are placing the user at risk. Current guidance needs to be improved to address environmental constraints whilst facilitating stable walking. The research is highly relevant considering the rising number of walking aid users, their increased falls-risk, and the costs of falls. Trial Registration Not applicable.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society > Centre for Health Sciences Research
Journal or Publication Title: BMC Geriatrics
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1471-2318
Related URLs:
Funders: The Dunhill Medical Trust
Depositing User: SBA Thies
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2020 13:39
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 04:03

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