“Falls Summit” at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital Aims to Reduce Risk, Injury, and Death

In-patient hospitalizations for fall injuries skyrocket in less than 10 years

“Falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths in older adults,” states Steve Sparrow, program coordinator of the Kentucky Safety & Prevention Alignment Network (KSPAN), part of the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC), which is a joint venture of the Kentucky Department for Public Health and UK College of Public Health.

Fall prevention is such a public health issue that there is a standing committee within KSPAN, called the Kentucky Safe Aging Coalition, which began in 2008, and whose goal is to prevent and minimize fall related injuries among older adults.

“Falls in the older adult population can be caused by a number of factors, such as chronic diseases like osteoporosis, diabetes, stroke, dementia, and arthritis or multiple medicines prescribed for chronic diseases. Fall prevention encompasses all of these potential public health issues. Preventing falls enables older adults to stay in their home longer and decreases the burden on caregivers,” says Connie Gayle White, MD, MS, FACOG, deputy commissioner of Clinical Affairs, director, Division of Prevention and Quality Improvement Kentucky Department for Public Health.

White and other experts in fall safety and prevention participated in the 6th annual Falls Summit presented by KSPAN at Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Lexington on Wednesday October 16, 2013.

Both Sparrow and White say that one of the most effective treatments that primary care and geriatric specialists can employ for fall prevention for senior patients is utilizing the Stopping Elderly Accidents Deaths & Injuries (STEADI) program from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess whether their patients have fall risks and how to help prevent falls among older adults.

STEADI is an in-office procedure, which screens for fall risks with an 11 item checklist that includes fall history, medication review, strength and balance testing, hypotension, vision testing, and more.

The Costs of Falls is Personal and Financial

According to statistics gathered by KIPRC and published on the KSPAN website, www.safekentucky.org, hospital charges for fall-related in-patient treatment for adults 65 years and older in Kentucky has risen from $96M in 2003 to $267M in 2011, an increase of 275 percent. Female in-patient hospitalizations for fall related injuries outnumber male patients nearly three to one.

“The increase is most likely due to a large aging population and increasing health care costs,” says White. “To combat these increases, we need to utilize evidence-based fall prevention programs and partner with key stakeholders like the Kentucky Safe Aging Coalition to maximize and combine available resources to lower the elevated costs. Prevention is the key to decreasing costs.”

“As a physician, I am aware of the time dedicated by providers to investigate, diagnose, and track down every detail of a patient’s progress while managing their chronic diseases. We must not lose sight of the fact that an individual’s quality of life can be significantly diminished if we do not also emphasize the importance of improving muscle strength, maintaining balance control, and falls prevention tactics. Many patients point to a fracture of the wrist, shoulder, serial vertebral fractures, and certainly, a hip fracture as the ‘beginning of the end’ of their independent high-quality life that is replaced with new limitations, restrictions, and chronic pain,” says White.

“We encourage physicians and all providers to use the STEADI program,” says Sparrow. “To be a part of a local fall prevention program, please contact Hannah Keeler at (859) 323-4747 or register on the KSPAN website at www.safekentucky.org.”