Washington, D.C.—The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution, authored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, and cosponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, marking September 23nd (the first day of the fall season) as “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.”
“Falls-related injuries have a devastating impact on older Americans, their families, and their communities,” said Senator Collins. “This resolution brings awareness to the impact of this issue and also demonstrates some practical initiatives that can be taken to make falls among older Americans a far less common occurrence.”
“Falls prevention is a team effort that takes a balance of education, intervention, and community support,” said Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the National Council on Aging’s National Falls Prevention Resource Center. “Falls Prevention Awareness Day is an opportunity to empower and educate everyone about their roles in preventing falls.”
“We know older adults play a critical role in preventing falls. Being aware of your surroundings, making modifications to your home, getting exercise to improve your strength and balance, and talking with your health care provider about your concerns about falls, balance and medications are all proactive steps to take. Fall Prevention Awareness Day is an opportunity to engage older adults and our whole community in conversations about taking steps to prevent falls. By sponsoring the Senate Resolution, Senator Collins is helping to raise awareness of the importance of fall prevention to older adults and communities throughout the country,” said Peggy Haynes, Senior Director, Partnership for Healthy Aging, MaineHealth.
Older adults are the fastest growing age group in the United States, and the number is projected to increase from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million in 2060. In 2018, approximately three million older adults were treated in emergency rooms after falling. In 2017, nearly 31,000 older adults died from injuries related to unintentional falls.
In addition to the physical and emotional impact of falls, the financial impact is staggering. The average annual health care cost of a fall injury is $19,440. The annual total direct medical cost of fall-related injuries for older adults is approximately $50 billion, with 75 percent of these costs shouldered by Medicare and Medicaid. As more Baby Boomers reach retirement age, these costs could nearly double within the next five years. In 2016, nearly one out of three older Mainers reported falling, and 54,000 falls required medical treatment or restricted activity. The estimated annual cost of falls in Maine is $293 million, including $193 million borne by Medicare and $59 million by Medicaid.
Seniors can take steps to protect against falls. In 2003, the Partnership for Healthy Aging at MaineHealth developed A Matter of Balance program run by volunteers, which reduces fear of falling and increases activity levels of older adults. Since then, more than 2,800 Mainers have participated in sites across the state from Portland and Lewiston to Damariscotta and Presque Isle. This Maine-developed program has now been disseminated in 43 states across the country from California to Pennsylvania.
This resolution urges relevant federal, state, and local organizations to educate seniors about ways they can reduce the risks that may result from a fall, including injury and even death. It also recognizes that evidence-based programs reduce falls by using cost-effective strategies, such as exercise programs, medication management, vision improvement, reduction of home hazards, and fall prevention education.
Last week, Senators Collins and Casey sent letters to four federal agencies—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs—requesting information about their falls prevention programs.
Next month, Senators Collins and Casey will hold an Aging Committee hearing where they will release the Committee’s report on reducing the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
In addition to Senators Collins and Casey, the resolution is cosponsored by Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Doug Jones (D-AL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
Click HERE to read the resolution.