Falls are the sixth leading cause of death in people over the age of 65. Among seniors, falls are more common than stroke and can be just as serious. Falls cause more than 90% of broken hips, and only half of those who break their hips will ever fully recover.
In Massachusetts, the Department of Public Health estimates that 150 older adults are hospitalized each day as a result of a fall-related injury at an annual cost to our health care system of $391 million. More than 90% of these bills are paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
Among nursing facility residents, frailer than seniors living at home, the risk of falls can be even greater and potentially more harmful. That is why the Massachusetts Senior Care Foundation has made falls prevention a major priority and co-founded the Massachusetts Falls Prevention Coalition along with the Department of Public Health and the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts to raise awareness among senior care providers and others of the harmful impact of falls and the availability of successful prevention strategies.
Efforts by the Massachusetts Senior Care Foundation and others to reduce falls and injuries in long term care facilities have resulted in a 26% decrease in hip fractures due to falls over a five-year period (2003-2007 is the latest data available). This reduction in injuries has resulted in an estimated cost of over $8.5 million.
Research suggests that a comprehensive, multi-component approach is needed to reduce the occurrence of falls and serious injuries. This includes tracking falls incidence on a monthly basis, conducting a post-fall assessment and analysis, and then putting that information back in the hands of frontline professionals, residents, and family members who can implement effective strategies for positive change.
The Massachusetts Senior Care Foundation has created, piloted and disseminated a Fall Risk Assessment Tool for use by care providers to determine which long term care residents are at greatest risk of falling and to develop care plans to minimize those risks.
Another excellent resource is the nationally recognized Falls Management Program, developed and supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) a program of the Center for Health in Aging and the Emory University Department of Medicine. The program is recommended as a consensus-based, best practice to prevent falls and injuries.
Interested in getting involved in falls prevention awareness activities? Please contact Mass Senior Care’s Helen Magliozzi.