Sunbeam Program Reduces Rate of Falls in Long-Term Care Residents With Mild to Moderate Cognitive Impairment or Dementia: Subgroup Analysis of a Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

Publication Name

Journal of the American Medical Directors Association


Objectives: The Sunbeam trial significantly reduced falls in long-term aged care (LTC) residents. The current study's primary objective was to undertake subgroup analysis of the Sunbeam trial, to determine whether the intervention was effective for reducing falls in LTC residents with mild-moderate cognitive impairment/dementia. Secondary objectives were to determine intervention effects on cognitive and physical function. Design: Subgroup analysis of a cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT). Setting and Participants: Permanent residents of LTC in Australia who participated in the Sunbeam trial with Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination-Revised (ACE-R) scores <83 (Mini-Mental State Examination >14 = main trial inclusion criteria). Methods: Of 221 participants, 148 had an ACE-R <83 and were included in this study. Sixteen LTC residences (clusters) were randomized to receive either the Sunbeam program or usual care. The Sunbeam program involved two 1-hour sessions/week of tailored and progressive resistance and balance training for 25 weeks followed by a maintenance program (two 30-min sessions/week of nonprogressive exercise for 6 months). Assessments were conducted at baseline, 6 months, and 12 months. Falls were recorded using routinely collected data from the LTC incident management systems. Results: Rate of falls (50%) and risk of falls (31%), multiple falls (40%), and injurious falls (44%) were reduced in the intervention group. The intervention group had significantly better balance (static and dynamic) and sit-to-stand ability when compared with the control group at 6 months and significantly better dynamic balance at 12 months. There were no serious adverse events. Conclusions and Implications: The Sunbeam Program significantly reduced falls and improved physical performance in cognitively impaired LTC residents. This is a novel and important finding, as many previous studies have excluded people with cognitive impairment/dementia and inconsistent findings have been reported when this population has been studied. Our findings suggest that progressive resistance and balance exercise is a safe and effective fall prevention intervention in LTC residents with mild-moderate cognitive impairment/dementia.

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Funding Sponsor

National Health and Medical Research Council



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