Falls prevention goes virtual at UHN

For seniors who are isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic, falling is a serious risk. With limited help from family and caregivers due to the pandemic, seniors have needed to become more self-sufficient and mobile.

As seniors are forced to take on more daily tasks, the risk of losing balance, tripping and falling becomes far greater.

Even before the pandemic, fall-related injuries accounted for 85 per cent of hospital admissions for patients over the age of 65. Preventing these injuries eliminates a major burden on the healthcare system, which is especially important as the war against COVID-19 continues.

The Falls Prevention Program at Toronto Rehab, part of UHN, is preventing seniors from falling in the first place and striving to ensure seniors are safe and independent in their homes. Those over the age of 65 who are experiencing instability or balance issues and are at risk of falling are referred to this 10-week program from healthcare facilities like Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals as part of the continuum of care at UHN. In this program, the patients participate in group education and exercise sessions where they build the muscle strength and mobility needed to physically prevent falling. They also learn how to safely get up from a fall and how other lifestyle changes can be made to limit their risk of falling.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting the Falls Prevention Program in-person was not possible, despite being a vital service in keeping seniors safe while in isolation. As a solution, the team pivoted to offering virtual care so patients could participate entirely from home while continuing to improve their balance, mobility and knowledge of fall prevention.

Before starting the virtual program, patients are evaluated over video in their homes to determine their level of strength and mobility, making sure it was safe for them to complete the exercises virtually and independently at home. All of the exercises were uploaded to YouTube so that patients could view them and follow along from home at their convenience.

Accessible videos and Falls Prevention Program presentation materials are available online for participants

The team also converted the program’s presentation materials into accessible videos so that the participants could continue gaining the knowledge needed to help them prevent falls. Throughout the program, members of the geriatric team at Toronto Rehab would check in with participants regularly to discuss their progress and any feedback on the program.

Moving forward with virtual care for the Falls Prevention Program has increased access to this incredible resource, helping even more seniors avoid falls. By continuing to offer this program through the pandemic, Toronto Rehab has helped prevent catastrophic injuries from falls that could result in hospitalizations, complications and exposure to COVID-19.

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