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Health and Housing Expert Forum: Falls Prevention

Welcome to the BPC Health and Housing Expert Forum. Bimonthly, contributors from different parts of the health and housing sectors will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Have a question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments.

This month’s topic focuses on falls prevention. Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Americans. It is estimated that one in three adults aged 65 and older fall each year. Consequently, 2.5 million older people a year are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries and over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture. Fortunately, most falls can be prevented through a variety of evidence-based interventions. Below we ask a range of experts about how to significantly reduce falls among older adults in this country.

Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Senior Health and Housing Task Force, its co-chairs or the Bipartisan Policy Center.

What home and/or community strategies or modifications are most important to reduce the risk of falling and how can policymakers encourage their widespread adoption?

Reducing Falls Should Be a Lifelong Goal
By Dorothy Baker

The key to preventing falls and other geriatric syndromes is based on the concept of multifactorial causality. The greater the number of specific characteristics a person accumulates, the greater the probability of falling.

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Fall Prevention Starts at Home
By Emily Blumenthal and Erika Poethig

Two and a half million older adults end up in the emergency room each year with injuries from a fall, often suffering serious hip and head injuries or even death. In 2013, falls resulted in $34 billion dollars in direct medical costs, the majority of which are paid through public sources. Behind these daunting numbers are individual stories.

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Dramatically Reducing the Number of Falls Is Within Reach
By Stuart Butler

How often do you read an obituary saying the person “died from complications following a fall”? Probably very often. But a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report underscores that most falls are – or should be – avoidable.

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NCOA’s National Falls Prevention Action Plan: A Call to Action to Improve Home Safety
By Kathleen Cameron

Falls present a real and growing risk to older adults’ health, quality of life, and independence. Falls result in significant costs to our nation’s health care and long-term services and supports systems, amounting to $34 billion in 2013. The good news is that many falls can be prevented.

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Home Modifications and Exercise Are Key to Falls Prevention
By Loren Colman

According to the American Geriatrics Society’s Clinical Practice Guideline for the Prevention of Falls in Older Persons, every older adult who has had at least one fall and a balance or gait problem should receive a multi-factorial risk assessment.

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Effective Approaches to Minimize Falls and Beyond
By Ryan Frederick

Many of our homes today were not designed with older adults in mind. Often stairs, bathrooms, kitchens and other areas are fraught with fall risks. Some changes can be easily implemented.

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Falls Prevention Programs Are Making a Difference
By Bill Kelly

It is commonly understood that falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults. Falls cost $34 billion a year in medical costs, placing a heavy burden on Medicare, Medicaid, and seniors themselves.

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Research and Investment: Two Pillars of Fall Prevention
By Robyn Stone

Researchers like myself have no trouble rattling off the all-too-familiar statistics: falls cause 95% of broken hips, 16% of emergency department visits, and 7% of hospitalizations. They cost the nation $34 billion each year. And most of them are preventable.

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The Reality and Policy Implications of Falls Prevention: Personal Reflections
By Fernando Torres-Gil

The reality of being older and falling can be seen in nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities with elders facing broken hips and bones and bearing the difficult burden of extensive, debilitating rehabilitation. And for those of us aging with a disability, a fall is very serious business.

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