A Prehabilitation Program for Physically Frail Community-Living Older Persons

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Physical Therapy


Objectives: To describe the development and implementation of a preventive, home-based physical therapy program (PREHAB) and to provide evidence for the safety and interrater reliability of the PREHAB protocol. Design: Demonstration study. Setting: General community. Participants: Ninety-four physically frail, community-living persons, aged 75 years or older, who were randomized to the PREHAB program in a clinical trial. Interventions: The PREHAB program built on the physical therapy component of 2 previous home-based protocols. A total of 223 assessment items were linked to 28 possible interventions, including progressive balance and conditioning exercises, by using detailed algorithms and decisions rules that were automated on notebook computers. Main Outcome Measures: The percentages of participants who were eligible for and who completed each intervention, the extent of progress noted in the balance and conditioning exercises, adherence to the training program, and adverse events. Results: Participants who completed the PREHAB program and those who ended it prematurely received an average of 9.7 and 7.2 interventions during an average of 14.9 and 9.5 home visits, respectively. With few exceptions, the completion rate and interrater reliability for the specific interventions were high. Despite high self-reported adherence to the training program, the majority of participants did not advance beyond the initial Thera-Band[reg ] level for the upper- and lower-extremity conditioning exercises, and only about a third advanced to the highest 2 levels of the balance exercises. Adverse events were no more common in the PREHAB group than in the educational control group. Conclusion: Our results support the feasibility and safety of the PREHAB program, but also show the special challenges and pitfalls of such a strategy when it is implemented among persons of advanced age and physical frailty.




Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation