For the 2014 annual celebration, the Administration on Community Living (ACL) wisely chose to spotlight injury prevention among our nation’s seniors, including falls; fire, motor vehicle, and consumer product safety; improper use of medicine; and more.
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) and our partners in the Falls Free® Initiative are putting a special emphasis on how individuals and communities can work together to prevent falls among older adults.
The facts are sobering:
- Every 29 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.
- Every 15 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall-related injury.
- Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls, which are the most common and costly type of nonfatal injuries, costing $17 billion annually.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, which account for 50% of fatal falls among seniors.
Falls have a high cost for seniors’ quality of life—and for our nation’s budget. In 2011,
- $36.4 billion in direct medical costs were spent treating older adults for the effects of falls,
- An estimated 78% of these costs were paid for by Medicare, and
- Medicare costs in the first year after a fall averaged $12,150–$18,009.
With baby boomers marching toward Medicare, these numbers must change. If we cannot stem the rate of increase in falls, it is projected that the cost in 2020 would be $61.6 billion, including Medicare costs estimated at about $48 billion.
The good news is that falls among seniors are often preventable. Evidence-based falls prevention programs offer promising directions for simple, cost-effective interventions through reducing known fall risk factors, offering treatments that promote behavior change, and leveraging networks to link clinical treatment and community-based services.
Randomized controlled trials of several programs have clearly demonstrated a reduction in falls. Compared with controls,
- Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance reduced falls by 55%,
- Stepping On reduced falls by 30%, and
- Otago Exercise Program reduced falls by 35%.
These programs also saved money. A November 2013 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Evaluation of Community-Based Wellness and Prevention Programs found that participation in the Matter of Balance falls management program was associated with a $938 annual decrease in medical costs per participant. Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance demonstrated that for every $1 invested in the program, $1.60 is saved in direct medical costs.
See the complete article at the Altarum Institute website.