09.27.11

Senate Passes Resolution Declaring National Falls Prevention Awareness Day

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), joined by U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), announced the passage of S. Res 284 designating September 23, 2011, the first day of fall, as “National Falls Prevention Awareness Day.”  A similar provision was passed in the 111th Congress.

“Falls are a leading cause of injuries, hospitalizations and death among older Americans,” said Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “Fall prevention programs are a solid investment that save people’s lives and help curb billions of dollars in federal spending on treatment costs.”

“Falls don’t discriminate – nearly everyone has a friend or family member who has fallen,” Mikulski said. “This is an important public health issue for seniors and their families, which is why I fought hard for legislation to make elder falls prevention a priority. I will continue to fight to end falls through public education, community-based falls prevention programs, and research.”

“Preventing falls is one of the most important ways to keep an aging family member out of the hospital,” said Enzi. “Raising awareness and increasing education for these preventable injuries can help reduce the risk of falls for seniors and help millions of older Americans continue their independent lifestyles.”

“Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for those 65 and older,” said Collins. “Each year, one in three older adults will experience a fall, the consequences of which can be devastating. Many of these falls are preventable, and our resolution will help to raise awareness about the importance of falls prevention, particularly for older Americans.”

“Raising awareness about fall prevention can help prevent injury to vulnerable seniors, far too many of whom are injured each year,” Blumenthal said. “This is an important public health issue for families in Connecticut and across the country, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to raise awareness and reduce these tragic injuries.”

“Something as simple as ensuring older adults receive a nutritious meal through the Older Americans Act congregate and home-delivered meals programs, can reduce the likelihood of a fall and save a costly and preventable trip to the emergency room,” said Sanders. “Far too many older Americans suffer serious injuries and even die due to preventable falls. These programs make sense from both a financial and human perspective.” 

As a leading cause of injuries among people 65 and older, and falls have a substantial impact on the lives of Americans, their families and communities and society. The most recent data show that in 2009, 2.2 million older adults were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls, and that 582,000 were hospitalized.

On average, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the hospitalization cost for a fall injury is $17,500.  Most of these expenses are paid for by the federal government through Medicare reimbursements.  According to the CDC, it is projected that if the rate of increase in falls is not stemmed, annual costs under Medicare will reach $54.9 billion by 2020.  These estimates do not include other ancillary costs, such as caregiver time, reduced functional capacity or decreased quality of life.

A number of evidence-based interventions have been designed and tested to reduce the risk of falling.  Approaches include comprehensive clinical assessments, exercise programs to improve balance and strength, management of medications, correction of vision, and reduction of home hazards.

The resolution voices support for organizations working to both promote awareness about falls prevention and implement programs to help reduce falls among older Americans, including the National Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group, which includes the Alzheimer’s Foundation, the American Occupational Therapy Association, the American Physical Therapy Association, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, National Council on Aging, RebuildingTogether, the State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association, and other supporting organizations.

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