Last week, the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging released a report and held a public hearing on reducing the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
One in four Americans age 65 and older falls each year. From bruises and strains to broken bones and lasting trauma, falls threaten the health and safety of seniors as well as their economic security and independence. Falling, however, is not an inevitable part of aging. Falls are preventable, and recovery is possible.
“We know the predictors for falls, we have tools to identify those most at risk, and we have proven strategies to reduce risk and falls,” testified Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the National Council on Aging’s Center for Healthy Aging. “Yet, falls rates continue to escalate.”
Among the recommendations included in the report from the Special Committee on Aging, titled Falls Prevention: National, State, and Local Solutions to Better Support Seniors, include:
- Organizing a coordinated federal effort to reduce falls, including a national public awareness and action campaign and a cross-agency collaboration to develop the infrastructure to make it easier for older adults to access and afford falls reduction strategies;
- Promoting early identification of falls risk factors and early intervention, including recognizing falls as a medical condition; incentivizing health care providers to use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s STEADI falls risk and assessment tool; further promoting evidence-based community falls prevention programs; and focusing on two of the most modifiable risk factors—medications and home safety; and
- Improving Medicare to prevent falls, including providing Medicare reimbursement for falls risk screening, referral management, and evidence-based community programs; expanding payment for the Welcome to Medicare and Annual Wellness Visits to physical and occupational therapist; and developing Medicare falls prevention billing codes.