SWORD Care: a program to help the elderly prevent falls
Sep 24, 2019 • 2 min read
Falls are responsible for up to 30% of both fatal and non-fatal injuries, as well as for 10 to 15% of all emergency department episodes in older adults. Falls represent major expenditures in healthcare, with yearly medical costs estimated at $50 billion in the USA alone.
Clinical evidence favors well-designed exercise programs in the prevention of falls.
Most of these programs are costly and heavily dependent on specialized human resources: the therapists. Currently, there are no satisfactory solutions: those that exist are either expensive and complex or lacking enough clinical validation.
SWORD decided to address this problem and test whether the Digital Therapist was a fitting solution for it. Through the SWORD Care project, we developed high-quality exercise programs specifically designed for fall prevention.
What exactly is SWORD Care?
SWORD Care is an integrated, engaging, efficient, and cost-effective approach to fall prevention, including both diagnostic and therapeutic tools. It includes automated assessment tools, thus overcoming the dependence on subjective and time-consuming scales.
SWORD Care was developed in a two-year period, under a project co-financed by the Programa Operacional Norte 2020 through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
It was tested in a Porto-based facility with patients typically in the fall risk group. There was a total of 1130 sessions performed, adding up to more than 10h30 of treatment per patient during the 6-month testing period.
What results did SWORD Care get?
We used several different tools and scales to measure SWORD Care’s results:
• Timed Up and Go Test (TUG): 32% improvement
• Five Times Sit to Stand Test (5xSST): 25% improvement
• Berg’s Balance Scale (BBS): 56% improvement
• Short Falls Efficacy Scale – International (FES-I): 34% improvement
The results show that participants improved their overall balance by over 55%, while also reporting that their fear of falling decreased by more than a third.
The advantages of the program are perfectly showcased by this 79-year old participant, Mrs. Veríssimo: “There are things I do here I would never have done in my life! It helps me throughout my day, my joints feel less rusty, I can move a lot better. The pain is gone and so is my instability.”
Participants were asked to rate the program and they gave it a perfect ten.
Their feedback truly shows their satisfaction, as you can tell by Mr. Godinho, 81, who says “I can move my arms and legs better and do chores that used to bother me. (…) I’m perfectly capable of performing the sessions on my own. I’m very satisfied, I really like this.“