The time of year for a 'prevent' defense

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It bears repeating again: It pays to read carefully.

Otherwise you might be a hard-working stiff sitting at a desk, drawing smart-alecky conclusions to yourself in the middle of the afternoon for no reason. If you're going to be a smart aleck, it's always best to have a good reason.

Take yesterday, for example. Arriving in the inbox was something about senators accomplishing something during these days of healthcare reform gridlock. Now that's news!

At first, however, it appeared that the senators had resolved to block the start of autumn, on the first day of autumn, no less. Upon a bit closer examination, though, it was noticed that the resolution was for “FallS” prevention awareness. Falls, as in trips and stumbles, not fall, as in chilly winds and falling leaves. Oh well.

But all silliness aside, it was a welcome announcement. Repeating a feat from the previous Congress, five august senators announced the passage of S. Res 276 on Tuesday. It made Sept. 22 (the first day of fall) “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.”

Delivering the clarion call were Sens. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Herb Kohl (D-WI)—illustrating, if nothing else, that dangerous falls are indeed a bipartisan concern from coast to coast.

That's no news flash to long-term care providers, of course. Falls have such a huge impact they actually are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for individuals 65 and older. Nearly 2 million older adults went to a hospital emergency room because of a fall in 2007, and 500,000 of them were hospitalized. You can bet a goodly number of those wound up in long-term care facilities. There are also hundreds of thousands of falls in long-term care facilities that weren't fully accounted for in the numbers above.

But declaring that blue skies are good or hatred is bad doesn't really do much other than declare the obvious does it? That's why S. Res 276 rises above the smart-alecky comment target range.

The senate resolution's take-home value is it raises awareness and support for organizations working to implement actual falls prevention programs that could reduce dangers to millions of Americans. A partial list of the organizations includes the National Falls Free Coalition and the Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group, which includes the Home Safety Council, the National Council on Aging, the National Safety Council, the State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the American Physical Therapy Association.

Nearly $20 billion is spent yearly dealing with seniors' falls—in both direct and indirect costs—and that number could more than double by 2020, according to the NCOA. But maybe not if there are more awareness, programs and prevention. It's a campaign worth pursuing. Be aware.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.