If you’re fed up with the state of American politics — for whatever reason — you are far from alone. But Wednesday brought reason for all proper-thinking people to be proud of their elected officials in the Senate.
That’s because Senators unanimously approved a resolution near and dear to providers’ (and many others’) hearts. Saturday, September 22, has been officially designated “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.”
Yes, it is, not coincidentally, also the first day of fall (autumn).
As a pun and wordplay enthusiast, I “get” the connection (which has been noted and celebrated in previous years, as well, it must be noted). But the long-term care stakeholder in me overrides the nerdy satisfaction with word choice to almost find this concept in poor taste.
The first day of fall becomes THE day to focus on falls prevention? Pulleeeze.
Try that one out on any of your residents’ family members. Imagine the following telephone conversation: “Hi there! Glad your loved one has moved in with us. Next week we’re going to really get our act together with ‘Falls Prevention Awareness Day.’ We’ll really starting keeping an eye out.”
The fact is, of course, that you need to be like paranoid hawks virtually every moment, staring down any potential falls hazards, making sure residents are properly nourished and hydrated, and stunting any aberrations that could lead to a fall-prone situation.
You are employed because falls prevention awareness is part of your job description. 24/7/365.
Still, we should not look snidely on a well-intended measure authored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, and cosponsored by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), the committee’s ranking member.
In 2016, about three million older adults were treated in emergency rooms after falling, according to federal figures. Earlier this year, my mother joined those ranks. Luckily, she didn’t break a bone or even become concussed. But it did lead to a three-week stint in a very fine rehab facility. In fact, she came out of the entire experience (don’t tell auditors) better than she was before. Steadier on her feet, greater stamina … maybe something a stingy insurer doesn’t really count on paying for?
As the Aging Committee notes, and I can heartily agree, the physical and emotional impact of falls is staggering. We’re still not really sure why she fell. And looking back to a previous falling issue a few years ago, she withdrew and started a dangerous shuffle movement, ostensibly to make herself less vulnerable but mortifying for family members and wary clinicians alike.
No one needs to impress upon me the need for improved falls awareness.
Taken at another level, the impact to our lifeblood — the U.S. healthcare system — is incredible. Federal figures cite the annual cost of a fall injury as $19,440 (a delusionally low number in our case after perusing hospital bills alone). The number for all older adults in aggregate is $50 billion.
Need we remind anyone that the numbers could double soon with the near-doubling of the 65-and-over crowd?
About 1 in 4 of those people are headed for a fall each year, authorities say. (That takes into account only reported instances of falls, mind you.) The fall-risk and actual fall rates are, naturally, much higher with long-term care residents.
So there is clearly work to be done — even where aggressive falls-prevention measures are already in place.
Enhance your evidence-based programs that reduce falls by using cost-effective strategies, such as exercise programs, medication management, vision improvement, reduction of home hazards, and fall prevention education. Consult resources such as the National Council on Aging’s National Falls Prevention Resource Center.
It bears repeating: Falling is NOT a normal part of aging. And, as we all know, just one day shouldn’t be considered THE day to be aware of falls-prevention efforts.
Follow Editor James M. Berklan @JimBerklan.