Fall Prevention in the Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment
Fall is upon us and the first day of fall is used to create awareness for falls prevention and home safety. It is a great time to download a Falls Prevention Checklist and review it with your older loved ones.
Some of the statistics about falls and seniors from the CDC clearly illustrate why this is such an important issue for seniors and their families, and why we at Aging Wisely are so passionate about it. Take a look:
- 1 in 3 older adults (65+) fall each year (but less than half talk to their healthcare provider about it).
- Falls are the leading cause of injury death among older adults.
- The direct costs of falls (2010) was $30 billion.
- Falls are the most common cause of Traumatic Brain Injury.
- People age 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely than those age 65 to 74 to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer.
Clearly, falls are a serious concern for older adults and are not only dangerous, but can seriously impact quality of life. Many older adults who fall and do not have a serious injury develop a fear of falling and therefore limit their activities, further exacerbating fall risks due to lack of activity/exercise and affecting quality of life in other ways.
In addition to seeing how falls can negatively impact elder clients over the years, we are passionate about this issue because there are so many available prevention steps. A key aspect we want to emphasize here is recurrent prevention--that is, taking preventative steps after minor falls to prevent further falls and serious injury. We know individuals often do not think about this issue until a fall has occurred. If every senior who fell talked to their healthcare provider and took preventative steps after a minor fall, we could prevent many of the extreme statistics we see above. Our experience tells us that when a senior lands in the hospital or suffers serious consequences, he or she has usually had numerous minor falls beforehand.
How can a healthcare professional help you with falls prevention (or "recurrent prevention")? What factors might contribute to fall risk that can be modified to reduce risk?
- A professional can assist with an environmental review and complete a home safety assessment like the one above, but also providing solutions and resources for you to make it easy to make changes. A geriatric care management assessment also helps the elder client and family to understand how such changes will help and to find creative ways to make changes without necessarily feeling the home has been "medicalized".
- Physical factors may need to be evaluated, such as balance issues, eyesight, and muscle weakness. Is the fall related to a medical condition or do glasses need to be adjusted? A care management assessment can pull together information from your various medical specialists and help you identify risk factors.
- Medications can play a significant role. Your care manager can help you ascertain a medication review from your doctor or pharmacist (including specialty geriatric consultant pharmacists) and talk with your providers about possible solutions.
- Exercise is a key tool in preventing falls. How can you incorporate exercise and modify it to your physical abilities? Your assessment may include a recommendation and coordination with your doctor for a physical or occupational therapy evaluation. You might benefit from specialists such as a personal trainer who works with older adults (we love In Home Fitness and have recommended them to a lot of our clients!) or a Tai Chi or senior exercise class.
- A professional assessment can provide well-rounded recommendations on a variety of aspects and may uncover things you would not have. Issues that could impact fall risk include nutrition, foot issues, mobility aids, socialization/loneliness. A geriatric care management assessment can focus on specific areas of concern, but also look at the "big picture" and help provide you with proactive steps for good health and future planning.
- A comprehensive geriatric assessment can offer specific recommendations for solutions along with costs and programs to assist with care needs and help with any financial concerns.
If you are concerned about a loved one's safety at home, grab a copy of our Aging in Place Tips to review:
Need help today? Want to schedule a comprehensive geriatric assessment or a care consultation? Contact our Senior Care Consultant, Sue Talbott at 727-447-5845 or complete our online help request.