Graduation Date

5-2014

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy

Department or Program

Occupational Therapy

Department or Program Chair

Ruth Ramsey, Ed.D., OTR/L

First Reader

Ruth Ramsey, Ed.D., OTR/L

Abstract

OBJECTIVE. The objectives of this study were to identify characteristics of older adult fallers in a local community in Marin County, California, examine the perceptions of older adults who contacted a local fire district after a fall, examine the perceptions of first responders from a local fire district regarding falls and fall prevention, explore the degree of depression in older adult fallers, and identify strategies to prevent falls in older adults.

METHODS. This research study was an exploratory and retrospective descriptive study that utilized a mixed-method design. The researchers coded narratives from Patient Care Report (PCRs) provided by the fire district and also quantitatively analyzed PCRs to identify characteristics of older adult fallers. Researchers also qualitatively analyzed data gathered from focus groups with older adults and first responders and from phone interviews with community-dwelling older adults to understand their experiences regarding falls and fall prevention.

RESULTS. Findings revealed that the majority of fallers were female, at an average age of 81 years old, living at home and alone during the fall. Older adult participants associated falls with negative emotions and expressed a strong desire to maintain their independence despite experiencing falls and fall injuries. First responder participants experienced challenges when communicating with older adult fallers due to cognitive and psychosocial factors. The lack of coordination of services with care facility staff also posed a challenge for first responder participants.

CONCLUSION. As the older adult population increases, more older adults will fall and require emergency care from first responders. A collaboration between first responders and occupational therapists to develop and implement effective fall prevention programs for the community can potentially reduce falls and fall-related injuries and costs and improve the health and well-being of older adults.

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