In response to Qatar’s growing elderly population, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has continued to expand its geriatric medicine services with the Geriatric and Long-Term Care Department now operating across multiple sites and hospitals. Dr. Kawa Amin, Consultant Geriatrician, says HMC’s Falls Prevention Clinic, which is located at Rumailah Hospital and is the first clinic of its type in the country, is an important element of HMC’s elder care services.
“Our specialist consultant-led clinic receives around 24 referrals each month and mainly serves patients over the age of 65 who have experienced a fall or are at risk of falling. While individuals over the age of 65 are at a higher risk for falls, it isn’t uncommon for people under the age of 65 to experience a fall as a result of balance problems or a chronic or acute illness,” says Dr. Amin.
Dr. Amin says fall incidences are usually multi-factorial and are one of the earliest signs of frailty. He says falls are a major cause for admission to hospital and residential care facilities.
“Falls Prevention Clinics can be used to screen older adult’s wellbeing and frailty and to offer appropriate management at an earlier stage. A major component of what we do in our clinic is diagnosing the cause of imbalance and falls, and in some cases, we refer patients to other specialties for further consultation and management, such as cardiology or neurology. Medication reconciliation, which helps prevent medication errors such as omissions, duplications, dosing errors, or drug interactions, is also important as some medications can contribute to fall incidences. In some cases, we also prescribe medicine, depending on the patient’s condition and bone health requirements,” said Dr. Amin.
“The role of exercise and strength training is also discussed as part of the service we provide, as exercises that improve muscle strength in the legs and improve balance, posture, and stamina can be an effective way to reduce the risk of falling in some patients,” added Dr. Amin.
Dr. Amin noted that falls can cause injury, pain, loss of movement and function, loss of independence, and even death, underscoring the importance of diagnosing their cause. He says the Falls Prevention Clinic receives referrals from HMC’s Emergency Departments, inpatient care, and primary healthcare physicians and notes that they work in cooperation with other services across HMC to provide patients with a holistic, multi-disciplinary service.
“Many patients will require a multi-disciplinary care plan, particularly those who are experiencing recurrent falls, which can lead to serious health complications such as bone fractures and wounds,” said Dr. Amin.
“In addition to treating any injuries sustained as a result of the fall, it is essential to determine the cause or causes, which can range from an unsafe environment, for example, a home that has tripping hazards, such as loose carpets or rugs, illness, inappropriate shoes, foot deformities, or use of the wrong assistive devices,” said Dr. Amin.
Dr. Amin says there are several simple and inexpensive amendments people can make to ensure their home is safer for older adults, such as removing clutter from walkways and stairs, installing handrails around the bathtub/shower and toilet, increasing the wattage of light bulbs, and using non-slip mats. He says good nutrition is also important to maintain good health and notes physicians and care teams can recommend strategies to improve physical and emotional well-being, including exercises that preserve mobility and improve one’s ability to perform the activities of daily living.
“Regular health checkups with a primary care physician and annual eye examinations can be an important part of helping to prevent falls. In the case of those who have experienced a fall incidence, it’s important to address both physical and emotional well-being as the fear of falling itself can increase the incidences of falls. Fear of falling is a serious concern for many people and can restrict both social and physical activities,” added Dr. Amin.