Falls are the leading cause of injury among seniors, causing more hospital visits, fractures and deaths than any other injury. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly one in three adults over the age of 65 experience a fall every single year.
As a result, any research we find that helps seniors decrease their risk of falling, or the injuries resulting from a fall, is exceptionally important.
Results of The Binghampton Study
A recent study coming out of the Binghamton University, State University of New York, has concluded that seniors who have a fall plan of care, are less likely to be hospitalized due to a fall.
What is a fall plan of care (FPOC) you ask? Essentially, it's a a series of activities that raise awareness about the risk of falling, identifies your individual risk of falling, reviews fall prevention strategies and provides referrals to fall prevention programs in the community.
According to Yvonne Johnston, one of the authors of the study, "as a result of these interventions, older adults may be more conscious of conditions that contribute to falls, take steps to modify their home environment to reduce fall risk, and participate in fall prevention programs and physical activities that improve strength and balance. These steps, what we called development of a Fall Plan of Care, likely contributed to the observed lower rates of fall-related hospitalizations for older adults who were identified as being at risk for fall."
CDC Fall Prevention Program
The study was actually measuring the success of the fall prevention program developed by the CDC, through its Stopping Elderly Accidents Deaths and Injuries (STEADI) program. The STEADI program's operating philosophy is that falls a re a largely preventable event in the senior population and are not an inevitable part of aging. STEADI provides healthcare workers with the resources to:
- Identify patients at risk of falling;
- Categorize patients as low, moderate or severe risk of falling;
- Identify risk factors that can be adjusted;
- Make suggestions.
The CDC encourages physicians to ask 3 questions of their patients to determine their risk of falling:
- Have you fallen in the past year?
- Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
- Do you worry about falling?
If the patient (or you for that matter) responds yes to any of the above questions, they're at risk of falling.
So what does this mean for you and your family members? First, if you're over the age of 65, you have a strong risk of falling. Second, see your health practitioner and ask them to assess you or your loved one's risk of falling. Listen to their suggestions. Your risk factors might be based on the medications your taking, a physical ailment, poor strength, lack of balance, cognitive impairment, footwear or the home you're living in. Listen to your doctor's advice and if you're not satisfied, seek out additional expertise. Perhaps invite an occupational therapist to visit your home and make home modification suggestions, join a fall prevention class at your local Y, senior center or hospital.
Regardless, understanding that your biggest risk of injury is falling, is a great first step. Now develop your own individual Fall Plan of Care and you'll be well on your way to staying out of the hospital.