Integrated Exposure Therapy and Exercise Reduces Fear of Falling and Avoidance in Older Adults: A Randomized Pilot Study
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the safety and acceptability of a novel 8-week intervention integrating exercise, exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and a home safety evaluation, conducted by a physical therapist, in reducing fear of falling and activity avoidance. To collect preliminary evidence of efficacy.
DESIGN: Randomized pilot study comparing the intervention to time- and attention-equivalent fall prevention education.
SETTING: Participants' homes.
PARTICIPANTS: 42 older adults with disproportionate fear of falling (high fear, low to moderate objective fall risk).
MEASUREMENTS: Falls Efficacy Scale-International, modified Activity Card Sort, satisfaction, falls.
RESULTS: Relative to education, the intervention reduced fear of falling (d = 1.23) and activity avoidance (d = 1.02) at 8 weeks, but effects eroded over a 6-month follow-up period. The intervention did not increase falls, and participants rated the exercise, exposure therapy, and non-specific elements as most helpful.
CONCLUSIONS: An integration of exercise and exposure therapy may help older adults with disproportionate fear of falling, but modifications to the intervention or its duration may be needed to maintain participants' gains.
Wetherell J, Bower E, Johnson K, Chang D, Ward S, Petkus A. Integrated Exposure Therapy and Exercise Reduces Fear of Falling and Avoidance in Older Adults: A Randomized Pilot Study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2018; 26(8):849-859.