Thinking, moving, and falling: early detection of fall-prone phenotypes as targets for primary interventions—a translational study

PI: Anna-Karin Welmer,

Current guidelines for assessment of fall risk in older people only include screening for severe cognitive impairment. However, even small deficits in specific cognitive domains may interfere with an older person’s ability to compensate for somatic disorders.

In this project, we aim to verify whether older people with combined impairment in physical and cognitive functions comprise a specific group at high risk of fracture, dementia, disability, and institutionalization. We will also investigate which tests for cognitive and physical functions best define this group. Furthermore, we plan to construct and validate a multifactorial index for assessment of fall risk that enables early detection of people at high risk who can be targets for primary interventions. Finally, we will test and implement the index in geriatric clinics in the Stockholm area.

The project will use longitudinal data from the Swedish National study on Aging and Care in Kungsholmen, in which information on 3363 participants were gathered at the beginning of the study and every 3 or 6 years thereafter through interviews and clinical examinations by trained staff.

The index will help clinicians identify older people at increased risk for fall-related injuries at an early stage, when primary interventions are likely to be beneficial. The risk factors identified by using the index may also be optimal targets for individualized treatment to avoid or postpone adverse outcomes.

The project is funded by a grant from the Swedish Research Council.