The need has arisen to explain to policy makers and other important big-shot-type people why falls and the elderly is such a big deal. I have been working on an “elevator speech” – a 30 second persuasive summary that will compel one to action. I’m trying to incorporate all of the fact sheets I have seen since I joined the Carolina Geriatric Education Center and learned about the excellent falls prevention work done by NC AHEC’s. Here goes:
“Falls are not inevitable. Conservatively research shows 1 in 5 falls can be prevented. Falls are the result of many interacting factors. People are at risk if they have:
a. Problems with their balance or gait
b. More than 4 medications
c. Vision problems or an out of date eyeglass prescription
d. Tripping hazards in their homes…………..All of these can be managed to reduce the likelihood of a fall.
In 2010, 2.3 million elderly Americans (605,300 in NC) were sent to the Emergency room because of a fall and over 20,000 (837 in NC) died. Falls are the 6th leading cause of death for those over age 65. More than half of the people hospitalized due to a fall have to go to a nursing home.
The average hospital stay for a fall in 2008 was just over $20,000. All told Medicare and other insurance companies spend 28 billion dollars per year treating injuries from falls. Falls prevention is a good return on investment. For every $1 we spend on prevention programs we save $1.60 in direct medical costs. In one study, documented savings were as much as $500 per patient per year. Another comprehensive, large scale review of the research estimated we could prevent half a million falls – total cost savings 5.8 billion per year.
Since its inception The Carolina Geriatric Education Center (CGEC) under the Center for Aging and Health at UNC has trained over 10,000 health care practitioners on falls risk management. Mountain AHEC and Southern Regional are conducting a research study under the CGEC covering 25 North Carolina Counties which documents the life and cost savings.”