Are falls really a serious health issue?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), annually in the U.S. one out of three older adults (age 65 and older) fall.
According to our available data in 2015, in Maryland, there were 13,048* hospitalizations for fall injuries among all ages. Of those, 9,519 were among older adults aged 65 years or older. Falls were the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits for this age group in the state of Maryland.1 In 2015, 525 adults 65 years or older died in fall-related incidents in Maryland.
Click here for the report on injuries in Maryland 2013.
Falls can result in serious injuries like broken bones, wrist, arm, ankle, and hip fractures, which can mean long-term hospital or nursing home stay, or even death. Seniors who fall are two to three times more likely to fall again. Additionally, seniors who fall once are likely to restrict their activity level for fear of falling again, which can reduce their quality of life and increase their chances of falling.
But aren't falls just accidents?
Falls are not an inevitable part of aging. While many people think of falls as accidents, the truth is that many falls can be prevented. Studies show that most falls have one or more causes related to the following:
- Physical mobility problems (poor strength or balance, foot and ankle problems, arthritis, diabetes, and depression)
- Vision loss or low vision
- Medication issues
- Home and environmental hazards
How can falls be prevented?
Fall prevention programs focus on promoting healthy behaviors and creating safe environments. Older adults can reduce their risk of falling by beginning a strength and balance exercise program, making the home safer; asking their doctor or pharmacist to review medications, and having their vision checked and corrected. Effective fall reduction programs address these multiple risk factors.
What is the Maryland Department of Health doing to prevent falls in Maryland?
With funds from CDC's Core Violence and Injury Prevention Program (Core VIPP) 2011-2016, Maryland awarded three mini-grants to Cecil County, MAC Inc. Area Agency on Aging, and Washington County to support fall prevention in older adults. All three counties implemented both the Stepping On and the Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance programs in their communities.
MDH has conducted webinars on Fall Prevention and related risk factors such as Traumatic Brain Injury, Motor Vehicle Crashes, and Intimate Partner Violence webinars.
Working with the Maryland Falls Free Coalition, MDH coordinates annual Falls Prevention Awareness Week Activities throughout the state, obtains Governor’s proclamation for FPAW, and distributes promo items to partners in honor of FPAW. MDH has been a part of this initiative since 2010. Over the years, more than half of Maryland's county health departments conducted activities such as publication distribution, educational presentations, gait and balance workshops, home risk assessments, demonstrations, and health screenings in the community during Fall Prevention Awareness Week.
The Maryland Violence and Injury Prevention Program within the Maryland Department of Health released the 2016 Maryland Violence and Injury Prevention Resource Guide to highlight the scope and cost of injury in Maryland. The guide provides MDH, state partners, community-based organizations, decision-makers, and the public with valuable data and resources to promote a safer and injury-free environment for all Marylanders. One of the 11 topics covered in the guide is Falls in Older Adults.
What are some evidence-based fall prevention programs?
The following are proven, evidence-based fall prevention programs that have worked in communities all over the United States and Canada:
Remembering When: A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults, was developed by the National fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help older adults live safely at home for as long as possible. Remembering When is centered around 16 key safety messages including eight fire and eight fall prevention messages, developed by experts from national and local safety organizations, as well as through focus group testing in high fire-risk states.
Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance: Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance is an 8-form version of Tai Chi that Oregon Research Institute studies have found can substantially decrease the risk of falls in older adults. The program is designed to be offered 2-3 times per week in community settings.
Implementing Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance in real-world settings: Stepping On is a seven-week falls prevention class incorporating the behavior change theory. It was found in research by Dr. Lindy Clemson of Australia to be effective in reducing falls among older adults by about 30 percent. The program is aimed at seniors age 70 plus. Stepping On is a free community-based and interactive evidence-based falls prevention program aimed at educating participants and building confidence in order to reduce and/or eliminate falls. Stepping On focuses on how strength and balancing exercises, medication management, home safety, footwear, vision, and mobility are important in preventing falls.
A Matter of Balance: A Matter of Balance emphasizes practical strategies to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels. Participants learn to view falls and fear of falling as controllable, set realistic goals to increase activity, change their environment to reduce fall risk factors, and exercise to increase strength and balance. This program has been adapted from the original intervention to be more suitable for community-dwelling older adults by allowing small group sessions to be led by a trained facilitator.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web-based Inquiry Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) retrieved August 30, 2017, from http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars
Other Fall Prevention Links:
201 W. Preston Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
*Because of the ICD-10-CM transition, states are requested to submit ED data for the federal fiscal year of October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2015. Hence the reduction in numbers from 2014 to 2015 data.