As Australia’s population continues to age, there is an increasing risk of falls and general physical decline in the community, potentially leading to serious injury and hospital admissions. These risks are heightened for older Australians who also suffer from dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment.
Whilst exercise training has been shown to be helpful in institutionalised older people with cognitive impairment, the effect of exercise on the equivalent population living in the community was less clear.
To gain more insight into this cohort a group of physiotherapists from Melbourne recently examined the effect of long-term home and community based exercise programs on people with cognitive impairment who live independently in the community.
Physiotherapists Michelle Lewis, Casey Peiris and Nora Shields from Northern Health scoured published literature and identified 11 trials with data relevant to that topic. By pooling the data from these trials, the researchers were able to show that exercise training improves balance and independence with activities such as dressing and feeding. The data also showed that more demanding activities such as shopping and cleaning were also improved by a regular exercise training program. Additionally, there was some evidence of a reduction in falls in this group, which potentially has flow-on effects for healthcare costs.
The findings were published in the Journal of Physiotherapy, whose editor, Associate Professor Mark Elkins, noted that 'This study cleverly used existing data to identify how physiotherapists can help older people living with dementia in their own homes'. He continued, 'Lots of research generates further research, but this is one study with immediate applicability and benefits for older people with dementia'.
For further information, the full-text copy of the article is available free to anyone in Journal of Physiotherapy here.
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