Hospitals try to head off falls with risk assessments, fall-prevention classes

U.S. hospitals treat 2.5 million adults ages 65 and older in emergency rooms each year due to injuries suffered in falls, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. To reduce the need for these visits, many hospitals now offer programs to help older adults reduce their risk of falling, according to Kaiser Health News

In Montana, Great Falls Clinic starts with a questionnaire to determine whether the organization will need to conduct further testing to develop fall-intervention strategies, KRTV reported. The clinic and its physical therapy department try to determine whether medications, illnesses, changes in vision or other factors might put patients at higher risk for falls, Physical Therapist Patti Jo Lane told the station. In addition to developing treatments, physical therapists also suggest changes to improve home safety.

Kaiser Health News looked at a free 12-week exercise class offered by Holy Cross Hospital's Senior Source center in Silver Spring, Maryland. Seniors first take balance tests to assess their risk of falling. Those who can safely take the class work to improve gait, balance and muscle strength. Those who can't might be referred to physical therapy or to their doctor to discuss more options, according to the report.

Another program at the hospital's Senior Source center tackles the fear many seniors have of falling. The class, "A Matter of Balance," discusses how to make homes safer and modify potentially risky behavior, according to the article. The class, available in 40 states, saved its students an average of $938 in medical costs by reducing falls and injuries, Kaiser Health News said, citing a 2015 study.

A study in New York City found that most falls occur in patients' homes, with clutter, throw rugs and daily drug regimens of four or more prescription drugs the leading risk factors, FierceHealthcare previously noted. Infections also are a common underlying cause of falls because they can lower blood pressure and make people feel dizzy, as FierceHealthcare reported.

Patient falls inside a hospital are another major concern. Last fall the Joint Commission issued an alert detailing actions healthcare facilities must take to prevent injuries from falls, including raising awareness, creating an interdisciplinary falls injury prevention team, and using a standardized tool to identify risk factors for falls.

To learn more:
- here's the KRTV story
- read the KHN article
- here's the CDC information