The US Senate Select Committee on Aging recently released a new report on falls prevention – bringing forth facts on the elderly population at risk, the macro and micro impacts of falls and the necessary steps to increase fall prevention in the US.
In this report, the committee emphasizes the need for falls prevention awareness first and foremost, and that falls are preventable and full recovery is possible. The committee also recognizes physical therapy as an evidenced and effective method for preventing falls.
Keep reading for a breakdown of the findings, or you can click here to read the full report.
(Note: All facts and statistics in this post are pulled directly from the committee report.)
Who’s at Risk?
America’s elderly population (65 and over) is at a higher risk of falls, as risk increases with age. Risk factors associated with aging include a decrease in muscle strength, deterioration of vision, osteoporosis, arthritis, dementia and vitamin D deficiency. Medications such as opioids, benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and anticonvulsants can trigger dizziness, sleepiness or confusion, increasing the risk of falls in older adults as well.
- One in four Americans 65+ falls each year
- Falls are the leading cause of injury and injury-related deaths
- Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall
- Every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall
What’s the Impact?
Macro: Healthcare Costs
Because so many older adults experience a fall each year, the costs to our healthcare system are astronomical. In 2015, it was estimated that Americans spent $50 billion on medical costs alone for fall injuries. Costs are projected to exceed $100 billion by 2030 if this trend is not reversed. Unfortunately, the numbers could be more severe than reported because almost half of older adults who fall don’t report the fall to their provider.
Micro: Physical and Emotional Costs
The physical effects of falls can be as severe as broken bones. Ultimately, falls can result in injury, illness, disability, loss of independence or even death. Some injuries may require surgeries or lead to even higher fall risk in the future.
Additionally, falls can create an emotional impact and lead to psychological consequences. Many become fearful of falling, become less active and feel hopeless.
What are the Solutions?
In the report, the committee laid out five possible interventions for preventing falls among older adults:
- Educational Interventions: These can be in the form of written materials for patients with facts about fall risk and tips for self-screening for fall risk.
- Medication Management: Reducing or managing medications for older adults (especially when combined with strength and balance training) is associated with a decrease in fall risk.
- Physical Mobility Interventions: A high dose of activities that improve balance and increase exercise and strength-training are most effective at reducing falls.
- Home Safety and Reduction of Hazards: Identifying and eliminating hazards within the home that could cause a fall, such as loose rugs, inadequate lighting and obstructed walkways.
- Cross-Cutting Interventions: These interventions involve multiple components, such as physical mobility and cognitive intervention.
Further, the report lays out goals to address both the micro and macro challenges associated with falls. The goals emphasize the need for increasing awareness, promotion of mobility programs by healthcare and service providers and increasing funding and availability of fall prevention programs.
Physical Therapists are on the Forefront of Fall Prevention – What YOU Can Do
According to this article from the APTA, the committee held a special hearing on fall prevention and nearly every speaker mentioned the importance of physical therapy and physical therapists in prevention and rehab programs. Some described physical therapy as “critically important” to recovery from a fall.
As a private practice physical therapist, you have the opportunity to offer your patients fall prevention and recovery options in your practice if you’re not already doing so. Balance therapy is the key to offering better outcomes to your patients. FYZICAL has created the top balance program for physical therapists that you won’t find anywhere else.
FYZICAL is making a huge impact on fall awareness and has helped countless patients all over the country decrease their fall risk and regain their balance.
Want to offer premier balance therapy to your patients and do your part in preventing falls? Click here for more information on FYZICAL’s Balance Paradigm.