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95 Fear of Falling Associated with Decreased Attention and Executive Functioning in Caregivers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 December 2023

Sheila M Thompson*
Affiliation:
Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, USA. Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
Eliza Morgan
Affiliation:
Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, USA. Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
J Kaci Fairchild
Affiliation:
Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA, USA. Sierra Pacific Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), Palo Alto, CA, USA. Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA, USA
*
Correspondence: Sheila Mae Thompson; Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, USA; Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA, USA; spark1@paloaltou.edu
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Abstract

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Objective:

Fear of falling is an anxiety-related phenomenon that is associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality in older adults. Furthermore, a growing body of research has established the relationship between fear of falling and decreased cognitive functioning within various populations (i.e., older adult, multiple sclerosis, stroke survivors). Yet there is little information on the relationship between fear of falling and cognition outside of a geriatric context, with no publications investigating this relationship within informal caregivers. It is important to understand this relationship within caregiver populations because fear of falling may negatively impact caregivers’ ability to take care of themselves and their care recipients. The present study examines the relationship between fear of falling and cognitive function in informal caregivers.

Participants and Methods:

Fifty informal caregivers (86% female; 58% White; 10% Hispanic or Latino; 82% married; 53% with at least a bachelor’s degree; mean age = 57.76 ± 16.60 years) were assessed at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System in Palo Alto, CA. Fear of falling was measured via the Short Falls Efficacy Scale. Areas of cognitive functioning included verbal attention (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Task [RAVLT] Trial 1), learning and memory (RAVLT Trials 1-5), delayed memory (RAVLT Delayed Recall), visual attention (Stroop Color, Stroop Word), and executive function (Stroop Color Word). Analyses included linear regressions with age as a covariate in all models.

Results:

Analyses revealed that fear of falling was significantly associated with decreased verbal attention (RAVLT Trial 1: ß=-0.34, p = 0.02, t = -2.35, CI = [-0.659, -0.051]) and with decreased executive functioning (Stroop Color Word: ß = -0.35, p < 0.001, t = -3.10, CI = [-4.097, -0.874]). Fear of falling was not significantly associated with learning and memory or visual attention.

Conclusions:

Fear of falling negatively impacts verbal attention and executive functioning, regardless of age. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the relationship between fear of falling and cognition outside of a geriatric population and within a caregiver sample. Findings suggest a need for additional assessment, research, and treatment of fear of falling within informal caregivers. Caregivers may need to be assessed for anxiety-related symptoms such as fear of falling on a more regular basis. A caregiver experiencing fear of falling, as well as difficulties with attention and executive functioning, can result in increased risk of functional and cognitive decline for both the caregiver and their care recipient. It is integral that future research investigates this relationship longitudinally to identify if the negative impact of fear of falling on cognition is reversible.

Type
Poster Session 04: Aging | MCI
Copyright
Copyright © INS. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2023