The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Gerontology, found that 78 percent of nursing home residents who had diabetes fell within the 299-day study period, compared to 30 percent of those without diabetes who had a similar fall. The study followed 139 residents of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York.
Previous investigations have defined risk factors for falls among frail elderly nursing home residents, which include gait or balance disorder, vision impairment and medications, but until now diabetes has not been widely recognized as an important risk factor.
"Our study clearly indicated that nursing homes, assisted living facilities and others that care for the elderly should consider diabetes a significant risk factor for falling," said Mathew S. Maurer, M.D., Irving Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and Director of the Clinical Cardiovascular Research Laboratory for the Elderly at NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Pavilion. "In an era of limited resources, knowing that diabetics are more likely to fall may facilitate identifying older individuals who are likely to benefit from interventions aimed at reducing falls and their consequences."
"We will now add diabetes to the list of risk factors for falling and expect this to become standard practice," said Dr. Robert Zorowitz, Chief Medical Officer of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, where the study was conducted. "By controlling diabetes, addressing the complications it causes and being vigilant about the other factors that contribute to falls, we may substantially reduce the risk."