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‘Functional' exercise program reduces falls

A new falls prevention program, based on ‘functional' exercise, has reduced falls and aggressive behaviour in residents by more than half.
Palm Court residents get their daily functional exercise by washing dishes, as part of the Alzheimer's Queensland's falls prevention program.
Palm Court residents get their daily functional exercise by washing dishes, as part of the Alzheimer's Queensland's falls prevention program.

The program, delivered by Alzheimer’s Queensland, was initiated in one of the association’s specialised units, Palm Court – a secure 14 bed unit home to a mixed gender ‘family’ who have been diagnosed with moderate to severe dementia.

Functional exercise is physical activity built into a person’s ‘everyday’ life, often being movement that would not generally be labelled as traditional ‘exercise’, such as gardening, washing dishes, dusting or even flower arranging.

After brainstorming with a group of professionals, including registered nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, exercise physiologists and lifestyle managers, Alzheimer’s Queensland developed the program which saw falls decrease by 66% and aggressive behaviour by 65%.

Palm Court residents trialled ‘functional’ exercise on a daily basis as part of the program, which was tailored to include their own capabilities and interests.

“We have had nothing but positive feedback from family and loved ones. The residents are more engaged and the ambience of the unit has become more joyous and calm,” said Elaine Bray, Alzheimer’s Queensland director of care.

Studies, completed in the past decade, have shown a positive link between exercise and falls prevention, as well as enhanced wellbeing for people who have a diagnosis of dementia.

However, according to Alzheimer’s Queensland, nearly all of the past studies showed effects of a traditional ‘time limited’ exercise program, such as a static exercise class for 20 minutes a day.

“While we aren’t saying that this is not beneficial, we did find some limitations,” Ms Bray said. “It did not keep the clients’ interest; it was difficult to keep them on task and had no impact on their ‘living’ experience,” she added.

The Alzheimer's Queensland functional exercise program, initially funded by Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local, ran for eight weeks and was facilitated by an occupational therapist and lifestyle manager.

Alzheimer’s Queensland will now roll out the platform to other residents due to the program’s immense success.

Alzheimer’s Queensland is an association that delivers specialised dementia care via three residential homes, five respite centres and a 24 hour dementia helpline. To contact Alzheimer's Queensland, call 1800 639 331. 


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