Residents in residential care facilities within Fraser Health will now have the option of participating in a new vitamin D protocol, the first of its kind in Canada.
Vitamin D supplementation has been extensively studied as a treatment to prevent both falls and fractures.
Research shows that vitamin D is an important factor in maintaining strong muscles and bones as it is an important nutrient involved in calcium metabolism, bone health and muscle function.
In addition, studies show vitamin D may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer, and may have positive effects on immune responses and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Despite these benefits, vitamin D supplementation is not standard in most residential care facilities, where residents are less likely to absorb vitamin D through the sun, one of the main natural sources of vitamin D.
Fraser Health's new vitamin D protocol calls for 20,000 IU weekly dosage of vitamin D, which is an adequate, safe and effective dosage for older adults living in residential care facilities.
Those with hypocalcaemia and severe renal failure will be excluded.
Residents can opt out of the protocol if they do not want to participate. The protocol will be initiated by the physician within the first six weeks of a resident moving into a residential care facility.
The vitamin D protocol will cost Fraser Health less than $20,000 per year, whereas the cost of treating a single hip fracture resulting from a fall ranges from $18,000 to $30,000. The cost of providing a safe and effective dose of vitamin D is less than $2 per month per resident.
Fraser Health is the first health authority in Canada to implement a vitamin D protocol in residential care facilities.
"The new vitamin D protocol being implemented at residential care facilities across Fraser Health is a positive step in helping our seniors stay active and independent," said Dr. Nigel Murray, president and CEO of Fraser Health.
"We know that seniors with fall-related injuries tend to stay in hospital twice as long as seniors hospitalized for all other reasons. This protocol will help to decrease falls and keep seniors in their own homes."
Fabio Feldman, manager of seniors fall and injury prevention for Fraser Health, said it's estimated that vitamin D supplements can prevent between 10 and 25 per cent of falls that currently happen in residential care facilities.
"Around 7,500 adults currently live in such facilities across Fraser Health, which totals between 1,000 to 1,500 fewer falls each year," said Feldman.