Falls Risk in Long-Term Care Residents With Cognitive Impairment: Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic

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Journal of the American Medical Directors Association


Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on falls rates in long-term care residents with cognitive impairment. Design: An observational study using routinely collected national interRAI data. Setting and Participants: Participants were from long-term care residents (age ≥60 years) who received an interRAI Long Term Care Facility assessment anywhere in New Zealand between August 17, 2018, and August 16, 2022. Methods: The primary outcome was “At least 1 fall in the last 30 days.” Based on the Cognitive Performance Scale (CPS), cognitive impairment was categorized into 3 levels: intact or borderline intact (0-1), mild to moderate impairment (2-3), and moderately to very severe impairment (4-6). The COVID-19 pandemic was divided into 3 periods (First wave: March 21, 2020, to June 8, 2020; Varying level of community outbreaks: June 9, 2020 to August 16, 2021; and Delta-Omicron wave: August 17, 2021, to August 16, 2021) and compared to a pre-COVID-19 period (August 17, 2018, to March 20, 2020). Cox regression modeling was used to study falls and interactions between CPS and COVID-19 pandemic periods, along with other established falls risk factors in the literature. Results: A total of 282,518 interRAI-LTCF assessments from 75,132 unique residents were included. Interactions between CPS and COVID-19 pandemic periods found that cognitive impairment was associated with a higher hazard ratio (ranged from 1.22 to 1.37) in each of the 3 COVID-19 pandemic periods. We also found unstable health, unsteady gait, wandering, and moderate to severe ADL dependency were the strongest risk factors for falls. Conclusions and Implications: Cognitively impaired long-term care residents had an increased risk for falls during the COVID-19 pandemic. This risk was influenced by several factors. In future pandemic or infection control related isolation, residents who are most at risk can be identified for targeted falls prevention programs.

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