Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans
Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ opening statement
Click HERE to read Senator Casey’s opening statement
Click HERE to read the Aging Committee’s report on falls prevention
Washington, D.C.—Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults that incur $50 billion annually in total medical costs. That number is expected to double to $100 billion by 2030, and the majority of these costs are borne by Medicare and Medicaid.
Today, the Senate Aging Committee held a hearing titled “Falls Prevention: National, State, and Local Level Solutions to Better Support Seniors,” which focused on the health and economic consequences of falls and explored strategies to prevent and reduce falls-related injuries.
“Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans, often leading to a downward spiral with serious consequences. In addition to the physical and emotional trauma of falls, the financial toll is staggering,” said Senator Collins. “Now is the time, and now is our opportunity, to take action to prevent falls. Our bipartisan report includes key recommendations to take steps to reduce the risk of falls.”
“We must dispel our loved ones of the stigma associated with falling so that they can get the help they need to age in place – where they want to be – in their homes and communities,” said Senator Casey. “I am hopeful that our work over the past year will propel the research community to do more, get more dollars invested into supporting home modifications and encourage more older adults to be active.”
At the hearing, the Committee unveiled a comprehensive report that provides evidence-based recommendations on ways to reduce the risk of falling. The Committee received input from multiple federal agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the Food and Drug Administration. In addition, approximately 200 respondents representing falls prevention advocates, hospitals, community organizations, home health agencies, and others shared their expertise on this issue.
The Aging Committee’s report made recommendations in four key areas:
- Raising awareness about falls-related risks, prevention, and recovery at the national, state, and local levels;
- Improving screening and referrals for those at risk of falling so that individuals receive the preventive care necessary to avoid a fall or recover after one;
- Targeting modifiable risk factors, including increasing the availability of resources for home safety evaluations and modifications, so that older adults can remain in their homes and communities; and
- Reducing polypharmacy so that health care providers and patients are aware of any potential side effects that could contribute to a fall.
Hearing witnesses included:
- Peggy Haynes, MPA, Senior Director, Healthy Aging, MaineHealth (Portland, ME). Ms. Haynes directs A Matter of Balance, an evidence-based falls prevention program that was developed at MaineHealth. This program consists of eight two-hour sessions to help participants reduce fear of falling, set realistic goals for increasing activity, change their environment to reduce fall risk factors, and promote strength and balance exercise. A Matter of Balance is offered in 46 states reaching nearly 100,000 seniors. Ms. Haynes spoke about the program, its reach, and it its impact.
- Virginia Demby, Advocate for Community and Older Adults (Chester, PA). Ms. Demby is an 84-year-old retired nurse. She is visually impaired and has other health issues, but she remains extremely active. Despite living with low vision, Ms. Demby remains physically active by participating in exercise classes for older adults at the Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Chester. She is an advocate for older adults and now helps the local senior center wellness manager recruit more seniors to take falls prevention classes and find new places to offer the classes.
- Kathleen A. Cameron, MPH, Senior Director, Center for Healthy Aging, National Council on Aging (Arlington, VA). Ms. Cameron has more than 25 years of experience in the health care field as a pharmacist, researcher, and program director focusing on falls prevention, geriatric pharmacotherapy, mental health, long-term services and supports, and caregiving. She discussed the work of the National Falls Prevention Resource Center, which helps to support evidence-based falls prevention programs across the country. She also highlighted policy solutions to reduce falls risk.
- Elizabeth Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, National Osteoporosis Foundation (Arlington, VA). Ms. Thompson testified that bone loss and osteoporosis are fundamental underlying contributors to the worst consequences of falls among older Americans: broken and fractured bones. Osteoporotic fractures are responsible for more hospitalizations than heart attacks, strokes, and breast cancer combined.
Click HERE to read their testimonies.