In Massachusetts, for people age 65 years and older falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and Emergency Department visits as well as the leading cause of injury-related deaths. However, falls should never be considered a normal part of the aging process.
Fall risk assessment
Health Care providers, including primary care physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, medical assistants and others have an important role as “team” practitioners in the prevention of older adult falls. Other falls prevention support partners include community health workers and home health aides. The best way to identify an older adult’s individual fall risks is for their primary care provider to perform a fall risk screening and assessment so that referrals for proper interventions can be initiated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an evidence-based fall prevention toolkit designed to aid health care providers in making fall risk assessment a part of their standardized practice. The toolkit known as STEADI (stands for Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries) provides a broad array of information including functional assessment tools/tests, educational materials for patients, and provider training, etc. Providers should begin by reviewing the STEADI algorithm and making sure that during a medical visit their older adult patients are asked at least the following 3 questions:
- Have you fallen in the past year?
- Do you feel unsteady when standing or walking?
- Do you worry about falling?
Other resources for health care providers and their fall prevention partners
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons – Guidelines for Preventing Falls
- American Physical Therapy Association - Balance and Falls
- American Occupational Therapy Association – Falls Prevention
- (New Training)-STEADI-The Pharmacist’s Role in Older Adult Fall Prevention
- American Society of Consultant Pharmacists-NCOA Falls Risk Reduction Toolkit
- The Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert – Preventing Falls and Fall-related Injuries in Health Care Facilities
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality-Preventing Falls in Hospitals
- Institute for Healthcare Improvement: Falls Prevention
Finding local services and supports for patients
- Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) — home page
- MassOptions (EOEA)
- MA Councils on Aging
- Healthy Living Center of Excellence
Look for community-based falls and chronic disease self-management programs.
- Eldercare Locator - Administration on Aging