Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations for Canadian seniors, with one-third of those falls resulting in hip fracture. Reducing the risk of falls and minimizing injuries when they do happen is the goal of Vicki Komisar, a postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Burnaby, British Columbia.
“My great-grandmother died at 90 from complications of a hip fracture caused by a fall, so I have a personal interest in falls prevention and injury reduction,” says Dr. Komisar, who is part of an AGE-WELL-supported research team developing technologies and products that reduce the incidence and severity of falls. One of the products is an innovative hip protector. Her SFU team recently found that hip protectors reduce fall-related hip fracture risk three-fold in older adults in care facilities.
The problem, says Dr. Komisar, is that the most common garment-based hip protectors can be uncomfortable to wear and difficult to put on and take off – making it less likely that older adults or care staff will take the time to use them.
The SFU-based group has taken a novel approach. Working with Blue Tree Medical, the team has developed stick-on hip protectors that have been worn for seven days at a time in hospital test sites. Initial trial results at Burnaby Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital have been positive, with “staff excited about a product that eliminates the need to take a traditional garment-based protector on and off throughout the day,” Dr. Komisar says.
With her mentors Steve Robinovitch and Fabio Feldman, she has been analyzing data from the study to refine the hip protectors for use in acute care settings, and has been developing instructions for use, working with care providers at hospitals and running education sessions. She’s also contributing to policy development and the creation of Canada’s first national standard for hip protectors.
“There are many hip protectors available,” says Dr. Komisar, “yet they vary dramatically in their effectiveness. Consumers have no guidance in determining which ones are most effective. I’ve been co-ordinating an international study with teams from England, Wales and Waterloo, Ontario to look at best practices in assessing hip protector efficacy and using those rankings to develop a draft CSA standard.”
This work builds on earlier research Dr. Komisar completed during her PhD, which was also partly funded through an AGE-WELL scholarship, where she looked at the environmental factors that can prevent or minimize the severity of falls, including the optimal design and height of handrails.
Dr. Komisar is among 750 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and professionals who have benefitted from a unique AGE-WELL training program that equips promising young researchers to be future leaders in technology and aging. Dr. Komisar received access to funding, multi-disciplinary research environments and mentorship opportunities that help trainees accelerate innovation and commercialization, extend their transdisciplinary research skills and develop practical solutions that make an impact.
“AGE-WELL has been instrumental in my professional development, connecting me to fundamental research as well as translating that research into policies and products that make life better for others.”
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