Prevent Falls in Older Adults

Many Vermonters are affected by falls at some point in their life. People who are 65 years and older are increasingly at risk of falling, and therefore potentially injury.
As we age, we are more likely to be injured in a fall.
 
But falls are not a normal part of aging and can be prevented – there are many ways to stay strong and independent as you age.

Facts About Falls

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls among older adults are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal unintentional injuries in the United States. Falling is also the leading cause of emergency department visits for people in this age range.

One out of three older people fall each year, but fewer than half tell their doctor and falling. This doubles the chance of falling again. The average hospital cost for a fall injury is over $30,000 and more than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. Based on data from the 2014 Vermont Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey:

  • 125 Vermont adults, age 65 or older, died as the result of a fall.
  • More than 1,600 older adults in Vermont were hospitalized and an additional 5,445 went to local emergency departments due to a fall.
  • 8 in 10 Vermont adults, who are 65 years and older, have at least one chronic condition. People who have had at least one fall are significantly more likely to have at least one chronic condition, compared to people who have not had a fall.

Important Facts about Falls from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

For Older Adults
While falls are the leading cause of injury for people 65 years of age and older, falls are NOT an inevitable part of aging.
You may be at higher risk of falls, if:
  • You have fallen more than once in the last year.
  • You have been injured in a fall in the last year.
  • You have fallen in the past three months.
  • You sometimes lose your balance or nearly fall.

Falls can be PREVENTED. Here is what you can do:

  • Talk to your doctor: Even if falling isn't a serious problem, your doctor can address any concerns, review your medications, and help you to know what you can do to reduce your risk for falls.
  • Check your risk for falling: There are many reasons people fall and a single fall is usually a result of multiple factors. This self-assessment can help you consider your risk.
  • Consider Vitamin D: Research shows that Vitamin D supplementation is one of the best ways to prevent falls. Talk to your primary care provider about whether Vitamin D is right for you.
  • Check for safety: Make your home a place that is safe for you and others. Follow this guide.
About Falls Free Vermont

The Falls Free Vermont coalition is a network of service organizations and health care providers committed to helping older Vermonters to age in healthy ways and to prevent falls from occurring. Please visit their website at www.fallsfreevermont.org for information about falls prevention classes in your area, as well as resources to improve the safety of your home. These resources can help to significantly reduce your risk of falling and get you connected to organizations and providers who will improve your quality of life and live safely in your home.

Community Organizations

Looking for local falls prevention resources? The Vermont Department of Health, along with the Falls Free Vermont Coalition, offers the Vermont Falls Prevention Resource Guide. The guide offers suggestions on appropriate referrals and up-to-date listings of resources statewide. Falls Prevention Resource Guide

Planning to start screening for falls? There are many excellent falls risk screening and assessment tools available. The CDC offers the free STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries) toolkit. The STEADI toolkit contains a falls risk assessment algorithm, an online training module with continuing education credits available, and free printable materials for both providers and patients. CDC STEADI Toolkit.

Looking for printable materials? STEADI also offers patient fact sheets, provider pocket guides, and more on their website. Look for information on postural hypotension, simple exercises, and home assessment. 

Interested in joining the Falls Free Vermont Coalition and referral network? If you’re interested in being included in the resource guide and referral network or joining the Falls Free Vermont Coalition, contact the Falls Prevention Program at vtems@vermont.gov or (802) 863-7227.

 

Medical Professionals

An important part of successful falls prevention in older adults is a strong provider-patient relationship.

To support this, the Vermont Department of Health is working with the state Falls Free Vermont Coalition, EMS agencies, and health care providers to roll out a new falls prevention/self-management program that connects clinical and community health resources.

The Fallscape program trains older adults to use everyday situations and tools to prevent falls – and stay in their homes for longer.

The training is delivered by EMS personnel in the home and consists of screening, an assessment using motivational interviewing techniques, and point-of-view videos.

Studies show that a combination of behavior changes can significantly reduce falls among older adults. Experts recommend:

  • Participating in a physical activity regimen with balance, strength training, and flexibility components.
  • Consulting with a health professional about getting a falls risk assessment.
  • Having medications reviewed regularly.
  • Getting eyes and ears checked annually.
  • Making sure the home environment is safe and supportive.

Incorporate falls prevention into your older adult patient care:

  1. Talk with your older patients about falls and fall prevention – even if they don't raise the subject themselves.
  2. Consider integrating falls risk screenings and/or assessments into your electronic health record. CDC STEADI Screening Questions.
  3. Know how to refer your patients who are at risk for falls.
  4. Be ready to offer information on nutrition, vision, medication review, or other factors that can contribute to falls risk.

Make a referral

Health care providers can refer patients directly to the FallScape program. Please call us for more information.

For more information on training yourself and all the members of your staff in falls risk assessments, or for free printable materials and referral information, see Community Organizations.

Emergency Medical Services

The FallScape program is a partnership between between the Vermont Department of Health, the Falls Free Vermont Coalition, Vermont Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and health care providers.

For general information, see the above sections for Community Organizations and Medical Professionals.

EMS-specific training on falls risk assessment and referrals: Vermont Emergency Medical Services provides an introductory training module on learning to identify older adult patients who are at risk for falls and get them connected with the right resources. Find this information in CentreLearn under course code “EMSFalls”.

 

Contact Us
Falls Prevention Program
TEL 802-863-7227
FAX 802-863-7511