Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It’s Older Americans Month: Are Our Seniors Safe?

May is Older Americans Month, and this year’s theme is Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow.

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,

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.