Update To This Blog, September 30, 2019 (this update authored by Keri Lipperini, Director, Office of Nutrition and Health Promotion Programs)
On September 26th, ACL visited one of our Falls Prevention Program grantees making a positive difference in the community!
Marymount University, and its partners in the Northern VA Falls Prevention Alliance, are hard at work on evidence-based activities, like its SAIL exercise class. We spoke with one of the SAIL participants who said the program, along with taking the stairs and doing daily walks with her dog, help keep her in balance and strong.
SAIL focuses on the single most important thing adults can do to reduce fall risk: exercises that improve strength, balance, and fitness.
We observed a falls prevention screening clinic in action. The screenings were conducted by current and former students and faculty from Marymount University’s Malek School of Health Professions. Screenings were held in a room with different “stations”, providing balance screening, medication reviews, and other assessment of other risk factors for falls. Participants were provided with the results of their screening, and some concrete recommendations and resources they could take to prevent falls. We learned that the older adults liked to help the next generation of health professionals learn, and that students learned how rewarding and enjoyable it can be work with older adults.
Original Blog by Lance Robertson:
Did you know that, every year, one out of four older adults trips, slips, slides, or loses their balance and experiences a fall. Falls can happen to older adults with and without disabilities. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that falls and fall-related injuries result in nearly $50 billion (with a B) in medical costs in the US. Falls can lead to sprains, broken bones, and even head injuries. These injuries can result in hospitalization and loss of mobility and independence.
People aging with disabilities also experience high rates of falling. The NIDILRR-funded University of Washington Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Promoting Healthy Aging for Individuals with Long-Term Physical Disabilities (Aging RRTC) found that adults with disabilities like post-polio syndrome, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injury report falling “more often than not.” Problems with equilibrium, vision, and coordination put people with these long-term physical disabilities at risk of falling and sustaining an injury. Other studies have shown that falling can also be a risk for people who have had a stroke or traumatic brain injury, with loss of equilibrium or vision among the factors increasing that risk.
The great news is that there are many resources available on things you can do to prevent falls and to help you recover if you do fall. These resources can be helpful for older adults with and without disabilities.
- The Aging RRTC has a great fact sheet with recommendations for exercise and activities to improve strength and balance.
- The Administration on Aging, which like NIDILRR is part of the Administration for Community Living, funds Evidence-Based Falls Prevention Programs, including a National Falls Prevention Resource Center. Visit the center for resources for older adults, caregivers, professionals, and advocates. You can also sign up for the Center for Healthy Aging eNewsletter for the latest from the resource center and other programs.
- The National Institute on Aging (NIA) articles on falls and fall prevention tackle balance problems, fall-proofing your home, preventing falls and fractures, and even a tips on talking to your doctor about your concerns about falling.
- NIA also offers an excellent collection of articles and factsheets on fitness and physical activity, including balance and flexibility exercises which can be important for both prevention and recovery.
- The CDC Older Adults Falls Programs include a compendium of effective fall interventions, and a community-based falls prevention program guide.
- Your local Area Agency on Aging or Center for Independent Living may also have programs to assist you, such as in-home falls risk assessments, fitness and balance classes, and examples of assistive devices which can help you stay safe at home, at work, and in the community.
Also, a number of NIDILRR-funded research projects currently are studying falls and falls prevention. For example:
- RERC on Technologies to Support Aging-in-Place for People with Long-Term Disabilities (TechSAge RERC II) Steady Wheels project looks at using smart-phone based postural control assessments for falls risk screening in adults who use wheelchairs.
- The RERC on Technologies to Evaluate and Advance Manipulation and Mobility (TEAMM) is evaluating wearable airbag technology to reduce injuries from falls among people who have had a stroke
- The RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment conducts human factors research on prevention of slips and falls, use of wayfinding apps, and cost-effective methods to evaluate universal design products during the design process
- Explore more than 40 current and completed projects that have conducted research on falls and fall prevention.
Looking for more research on falls, fall prevention, and rehabilitation after a fall? Call the National Rehabilitation Information Center at 800-346-2742 to chat with an information specialist, Monday to Friday, 8:30-5:30 ET.