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Senate Aging Committee Seeks Comments on Preventing Falls

U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate  Special Committee on Aging, requests staff of Meadowbrook Care Center, New Jersey’s aging network and state officials overseeing the programs and delivery of services to the Garden State’s aging population, to provide recommendations to reduce senior’s risk of falls and fall-related injuries.  Your recommendations, due by June 26, 2019, will be compiled for a report the Committee is authoring to bring attention to this common and dangerous event.  Please note that all submitted comments will be considered part of the official public record.

Preventing Senior’s Falls. Photo Credit: National Institute on Aging

According to the Washington, DC-based National Council on Aging’s “Free Fall” data, in 2013, falls were the leading cause of death from unintentional injury in the Garden State among those 60 and older. Every nine minutes in the Garden State and a person age 60 and over is seen in the emergency room for a Fall-related death.  During this year, 77 percent of those admitted to hospitals because of a fall was age 60 and over.

Nationally, in 2016, approximately 3 million older adults were treated in emergency rooms after falling.

Even if seniors avoid a major injury, a fall can still have a cascading effect on health. After falling once, they may restrict his or her activity out of fear of falling again. This can lead to a decline in physical health as well as social isolation and depression.

Gathering Comments on Reducing the Risks of Falls

The Senate Aging Committee is specifically interested in getting your comments on reporting of falls and follow-up.  To what extent are falls unreported among older Americans? What strategies can be employed to encourage patients to promptly notify their health care provider or caregivers of a fall? How can follow-up with appropriate health care providers be improved after a visit to an emergency department for a fall?

Gathering details on tools and resources to reduce falling, the Senate Aging Committee also want answers to these questions: What learning tools, resources or techniques can be used to empower patients to change their home environment or modify risk factors to reduce the risk of falls? What are the opportunities and limitations surrounding assistive technologies? Are there are any federal policy barriers that make it difficult to offer tools and resources to patients to prevent falls?

The Senate Aging Committee is also gathering comments as to how the Medicare and Medicaid programs can promote full prevention.  Specially, how can the “Welcome to Medicare” visit or the “Annual Wellness” visits be improved to better assess fall risk and fracture prevention and ensure appropriate referrals? How can Medicare coverage and reimbursement for falls prevention and fall-related services be improved? How are existing Medicaid waivers being utilized for falls prevention and fall-related services? Are there demonstrations or pilot programs that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation should consider?

Can you tell the Senate Aging Committee any evidence-based “best practices” that Polypharmacy? What recommendations do you have to ensure prescribers take into account the relationship between polypharmacy and falls risk when making both initial and follow-up clinical decisions for high-risk patients? Is there a need for increased research on the link between polypharmacy and falls-related deaths and/or injuries?

The Senate Aging Committee is also looking at the transitions of care.  Give your thoughts as how the transitional period from a hospital or skilled nursing facility to the home can be improved in assessing the home for fall risks? What more could be done by government agencies to support fall risk assessments and the implementation of protocols that could be used to prevent falls in the home care population?

Finally, the Senate Aging Committee wants to take a look at post-fracture care and asks: What can be done to create a care pathway for patients’ post-fracture to ensure proper follow up care and prevention of future fractures? Are there best practice models that can provide implementation opportunities? Are there any federal policy barriers to implementing best practices in post-fracture care?

Please email your comments, by June 26, 2019, to AnnualReport@aging.senate.gov.  

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