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An intervention to improve outcomes of falls in dementia: the DIFRID mixed-methods feasibility study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Louise Allan, Dr Alison WheatleyORCiD, Tara HomerORCiD, Shannon Robalino, Fiona Beyer, Christopher Fox, Denise Howel, Dr Robert Barber, James Connolly, Professor Dame Louise Robinson, Dr Steve Parry, Professor Lynn RochesterORCiD, Dr Lynne Corner, Claire BamfordORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


BACKGROUND: Fall-related injuries are a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in people with dementia. There is presently little evidence to guide the management of such injuries, and yet there are potentially substantial benefits to be gained if the outcomes of these injuries could be improved. This study aimed to design an appropriate new health-care intervention for people with dementia following a fall and to assess the feasibility of its delivery in the UK NHS. OBJECTIVES: To determine whether or not it is possible to design an intervention to improve outcomes of falls in dementia, to investigate the feasibility and acceptability of the DIFRID (Developing an Intervention for Fall related Injuries in Dementia) intervention and to investigate the feasibility of a future randomised controlled trial and the data collection tools needed to evaluate both the effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of the DIFRID intervention. DESIGN: This was a mixed-methods feasibility study. A systematic review (using Cochrane methodology) and realist review [using Realist And Meta-narrative Evidence Syntheses: Evolving Standards (RAMESES) methodology] explored the existing evidence base and developed programme theories. Searches were carried out in November 2015 (updated in January 2018) for effectiveness studies and in August 2016 for economic studies. A prospective observational study identified service use via participant diary completion. Qualitative methods (semistructured interviews, focus groups and observation) were used to explore current practice, stakeholder perspectives of the health and social care needs of people with dementia following a fall, ideas for intervention and barriers to and facilitators of change. Each of the resulting data sets informed intervention development via Delphi consensus methods. Finally, a single-arm feasibility study with embedded process evaluation was conducted. SETTING: This study was set in the community. PARTICIPANTS: The participants were (1) people with dementia presenting with falls necessitating health-care attention in each setting (primary care, the community and secondary care) at three sites and their carers, (2) professionals delivering the intervention, who were responsible for training and supervision and who were members of the intervention team, (3) professionals responsible for approaching and recruiting participants and (4) carers of participants with dementia. INTERVENTIONS: This was a complex multidisciplinary therapy intervention. Physiotherapists, occupational therapists and support workers delivered up to 22 sessions of tailored activities in the home or local area of the person with dementia over a period of 12 weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: (1) Assessment of feasibility of study procedures; (2) assessment of the acceptability, feasibility and fidelity of intervention components; and (3) assessment of the suitability and acceptability of outcome measures for people with dementia and their carers (number of falls, quality of life, fear of falling, activities of daily living, goal-setting, health-care utilisation and carer burden). RESULTS: A multidisciplinary intervention delivered in the homes of people with dementia was designed based on qualitative work, realist review and recommendations of the consensus panel. The intervention was delivered to 11 people with dementia. The study suggested that the intervention is both feasible and acceptable to stakeholders. A number of modifications were recommended to address some of the issues arising during feasibility testing. The measurement of outcome measures was successful. CONCLUSIONS: The study has highlighted the feasibility of delivering a creative, tailored, individual approach to intervention for people with dementia following a fall. Although the intervention required greater investment of time than usual practice, many staff valued the opportunity to work more closely with people with dementia and their carers. We conclude that further research is now needed to refine this intervention in the context of a pilot randomised controlled trial. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN41760734 and PROSPERO CRD42016029565. FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 23, No. 59. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.People with dementia fall over more often than people who do not have dementia. When they fall over, they are more likely to hurt themselves. They do not get better as easily as people without dementia. After hurting themselves, people with dementia may need a lot more help in looking after themselves. They, and their carer, may not have such a good quality of life after the fall. In this study, we developed and tested a package of care to help people with dementia recover from a fall. In the first part of the study, we looked for papers about clinical trials that have tried to make things better for people with dementia who have had a fall. We found that there were very few previous clinical trials, but we found ideas for ways in which this could be improved. In the second part of the study, we found out what happens to people with dementia who ask for help after an injury due to a fall. We found that very few services were used by people with dementia who fall. We interviewed them and their carers to find out what help they thought they needed after the fall and what they thought we could do better. We also spoke to the staff in existing services to find out how they thought services for people with dementia could be improved. In the third part of the study, we asked a group of experts, people with dementia and their carers to look at the findings of the first two parts of the study. They helped us to design a care package for people with dementia after a fall. In the fourth part of the study, we practised giving the new care package to 11 people with dementia in their own homes. This was very successful and we now recommend that the package is tested further in randomised controlled clinical trials.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Allan LM, Wheatley A, Smith A, Flynn E, Homer T, Robalino S, Beyer FR, Fox C, Howel D, Barber R, Connolly JA, Robinson L, Parry SW, Rochester L, Corner L, Bamford C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Health Technology Assessment

Year: 2019

Volume: 23

Issue: 59

Pages: 1-208

Online publication date: 01/10/2019

Acceptance date: 02/04/2016

Date deposited: 17/04/2019

ISSN (print): 1366-5278

ISSN (electronic): 2046-4924

Publisher: NIHR Journals Library


DOI: 10.3310/hta23590

PubMed id: 31661058


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