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Open Access Article

An Analysis of Falls Experienced by Older Adult Patients Diagnosed With Cancer

Janine A. Overcash
Henry R. Rivera
Jill Van Schaick
ONF 2010, 37(5), 573-580 DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.573-580

Purpose/Objectives: To examine themes associated with falls specific to older adult patients diagnosed with cancer.

Design: Prospective, exploratory, qualitative study.

Setting: A senior adult oncology program at a cancer and research center in the southeastern United States.

Sample: Men and women aged 70 years and older with any cancer diagnosis who had experienced a fall within three months.

Methods: Patients were telephoned after research consent to participate in an interview about their falls. Frequencies were conducted on the biographic data. Themes were identified and grouped according to topic.

Main Research Variables: Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status, cancer site, cancer treatment modality, location of fall, and fear of falls.

Findings: Mean age was 76.2 years. Most falls occurred at home (75%). The themes of physical problems, general weakness, and walking were found to be the most common motivations for falls. Themes associated with self-imposed activities as a result of falls included "being more careful" and "using an assistive device."

Conclusions: Perceptions of physical problems, general weakness, and difficulty walking should be included in an oncology nursing fall-risk assessment. Exploration of perceptions concerning activities that have potentially caused a past fall and self-imposed activities also should be included.

Implications for Nursing: Beyond the boundaries of a fall-risk assessment, conducting a subjective interview to identify the individualities of falls and fall risk is vital to constructing a realistic plan of care.

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