La Trobe
1263559_Sullivan,R_2023.pdf (1008.84 kB)

‘Patient unable to express why he was on the floor, he has aphasia.’ A content thematic analysis of medical records and incident reports on the falls of hospital patients with communication disability following stroke

Download (1008.84 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-19, 23:30 authored by R Sullivan, B Hemsley, Katherine HardingKatherine Harding, I Skinner
Background: People with communication disability following stroke are at risk of falls during inpatient rehabilitation. However, they are often excluded from hospital falls research, and little is known about the circumstances or outcomes of their falls to inform risk management strategies. Aims: To examine hospital medical records and incident reports relating to falls of patients with communication disability following stroke for content codes, categories and themes relating to communication. Methods & Procedures: This medical record chart review examined data on 72 patients and 265 falls. A content thematic analysis was used to identify how patient communication is characterized in relation to falls, and their prevention and management strategies. Outcomes & Results: The data reflected that staff viewed patients having difficulty following simple instructions as contributing to falls. Gaining the attention of staff and communicating basic needs were also considered to be contributing factors for falls. Patients were often described as experiencing a fall when taking a risk or attempting to address an unmet basic need. Furthermore, written notes for patients with more severe communication disability reflected that the patient's communication impairments prevented staff from establishing the circumstances of some falls and complicated the assessment for injury following a fall. Conclusions & Implications: The medical records and incident reports of patients with communication disability following stroke reveal that hospital staff recognize the impact of communication disability as potential risk factors for falls for this group. It was difficult for staff to report the circumstances of the fall for patients with severe communication disability. Despite the recognition of communication as a potential contributing factor, few medical record entries documented strategies related to communication interventions to improve patients’ ability to understand instructions, gain attention or communicate basic needs. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: What is already known on the subject People with stroke are at a high risk of falls during their hospital admission. However, little is known about the circumstances of their falls and the influence of communication disability on these falls. What this paper adds to existing knowledge Patients with communication disability have unique factors that contribute to their falls in the hospital. Patients were described as experiencing a fall when taking a risk or attempting to address an unmet need, and these falls were often related to a patient's difficulties communicating their basic needs, gaining attention from staff, and following simple instructions. What are the potential or actual clinical implications of this work? Communication disability as a risk factor for a fall, and fall prevention strategies tailored to the communication disability, were typically identified and documented by physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nursing staff. The inclusion of speech pathologists in fall risk assessment, management, and prevention strategies may provide crucial information regarding the patient's communication disability that may enhance their fall prevention plan.


This research was funded by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and a Jumbunna Postgraduate Research Scholarship.


Publication Date



International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders






16p. (p. 2033-2048)





Rights Statement

© 2023 The Authors. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd behalf of Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.