Falls among those 65 years and older are a leading cause of accidental injury and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2010, 2.3 million nonfatal fall injuries among older adults were treated in emergency departments and more than 662,000 of these patients were hospitalized.
It is possible to decrease the risk and incidence of falls in older adults and thereby decrease individual and societal cost as well as reducing trauma. The Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) has an important role in identifying risk factors specific to each client, developing strategies to eliminate or decrease these risks, and gaining the client’s cooperation in implementing these strategies.
By conducting a comprehensive assessment, the GCM can identify health concerns which contribute to an increased risk of falling. It is essential to determine whether an individual is experiencing fall-provoking side effects from medications, such as dizziness or blood pressure fluctuations. Additionally the GCM can help evaluate whether walking aides like canes and walkers are contributing or minimizing the risk of falls. Completing a neurobehavioral cognitive status exam will help identify cognitive impairments which predispose people to falls.
Conducting a thorough assessment of the home environment is essential to ensuring adequate lighting and removal of obstacles in walkways such as throw rugs, piles of clutter, items stored in doorways and stairways and furniture. Determining the need for handrails in stairways or long hallways, grab rails in bathrooms, use of shower assistive devices like non-slip mats and shower benches all help reduce the risk for falls.
Once risks for falling have been identified geriatric care managers provide the assistance and resources needed to make changes to the home, to aid daily mobility practices, to monitor medications and to enhance care regimes to minimize falls and injuries to older adults and those with disabilities.