hands on a walker

As the temperatures drop, the risk of a fall increases. Slippery driveways, cluttered entries and lack of handrails are just a few of the home hazards contributing to fall-related injuries and even death for older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of four older Americans fall each year, and a single fall doubles the chance of falling again.

The South Dakota Fall Prevention Coalition (SDFPC) developed a free SD Fall Prevention Toolkit as a resource for healthcare professionals to identify and support individuals at risk for a fall. The collection of resources supports the coalition’s vision to reduce falls and fall-related injuries in older South Dakotans to maximize independence and quality of life.

Leacey Brown Photo

           Leacey Brown

“The South Dakota Fall Prevention Coalition’s first effort is to increase awareness among those at risk for falling and those who can identify and support someone with a higher risk for falling,” said Leacey Brown, MS, chair of the SDFPC. [pictured]

In addition to the toolkit, the coalition hosted the Pathways to Preventing Falls Among Older Adults webinar to provide an overview of fall-related research as well as highlight risk factors and intervention strategies. Nicki Loucks, PT, director of therapy at St Luke’s Medical Center in Crosby, ND, highlighted a positive patient outcome resulting from the rural hospital’s collaborative therapy and home assessment fall reduction program.

Nicki Louckes

            Nicki Louckes

“Implementing home assessments within our swing bed population has substantially reduced readmissions and improved independence, which is a key factor to reduce the occurrence of falls.” Loucks described the specific impact on one St Luke’s Medical Center patient, “Benjie was hospitalized for 216 days during a 12-month period.  Conducting home assessments offered an accurate perspective of living conditions and extrinsic factors that contributed to his falls and repeat hospitalizations,” Loucks explained. “Upon eventually agreeing to our suggestions, Benjie is now on his seventh consecutive month of no hospitalizations or emergency department visits due to a fall.”

In addition to emphasizing the value of home assessments and modifications, the webinar provided an overview of prevalence, risk factors, and screening and assessment strategies to identify those with a higher fall risk.

“The falls prevention research among older adults indicates that chronic conditions, female gender, being age 85 and over, gait and balance deficits, medication use, and malnutrition contribute to increased risk of experiencing a fall,” explained Brown.

Beth Bauer Photo

              Beth Bauer

Effective systems are needed to prevent a fall risk assessment from slipping through the cracks. Beth Bauer, MS, RN, ACNS, spoke on the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries (STEADI) program and detailed practical tips for assessment related to Timed Up and Go (TUG), medication review and orthostatic blood pressure, as well as a review of evidence-base fall prevention programs currently available across the Dakotas.

With the help of healthcare providers, Brown considers fall prevention as the goal, “Individuals follow the recommendation of their healthcare provider.  By encouraging screening for fall risk and providing referrals to evidence-based fall prevention programs, we can intervene before the fall occurs.”

Those interested in joining or learning more about the South Dakota Falls Prevention Coalition are encouraged to reach out to PreventFallsSD@gmail.com.