Falls among older adults are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, accounting for more than three million emergency room visits annually and generating more than $50 billion in annual medical costs (for figures relating to the U.S).
These numbers grow worse as people grow older, where falls are the most common cause of injury related deaths in people over the age of 75. There is also a higher proportion of people impacted from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
A leading Medicaid insurer (a U.S. process that contributes towards healthcare costs for some people with limited income and resources), Highmark Wholecare, has begun a demonstration project using BrainHQ brain training software.
The aim of the project, taking place in Pennsylvania, is to reduce fall and associated injury risk among its most vulnerable population. These are older adults showing high-risk of falls who are on Medicaid.
This approach to elderly care fits in with the ‘whole care’ paradigm, which is a new approach to healthcare that seeks to help people achieve whole life health, not just physical health. That is mental health and general brain health.
It may seem surprising, at first consideration, that sitting at a computer to do brain exercises can improve a person’s movement. However, the BrainHQ data has been shown in multiple studies to improve gait and balance and reduce fall risk. The application is available via Android, iOS and web apps.
The application does so by improving brain speed so that people can react faster to make the split-second neuro-motor adjustments that prevent falls and enhance gait and balance. Data indicates this is the case even among those at the cusp of high fall risk.
This basis for this is that by targeting visual processing speed and accuracy, the exercises improve the likelihood the brain will swiftly adjust body movement to prevent falls. Studies have shown large improvements in gait and balance.
In more detail, empirical evidence shows benefits in terms of standard measures of cognition (attention, speed, memory, executive function, social cognition), standard measures of quality of life (mood, confidence and control, health-related quality of life, health care costs) and real-world activities (gait, balance, driving, everyday cognition, maintaining independence).