Help Older Adults Live Better, Longer: Prevent Falls and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Older woman with walker, assisted by younger man.

Overview

As the U.S. population ages, the problem of older adult falls is expected to increase.  Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are telling…

  • Each year, one in three older Americans (65 and older) fall, and 30 percent of falls cause injuries requiring medical treatment. 
  • In 2005, nearly 16,000 older adults died from falls, while 1.8 million older adults were treated in emergency departments and 433,000 of these patients were hospitalized (2005, CDC). 
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) account for 50 percent of unintentional fall deaths and 8 percent of non-fatal fall-related hospitalizations. (2005, CDC).
  • Direct medical costs totaled $0.2 billion for fatal falls and $19 billion for nonfatal fall injuries (2000, CDC).

The fact is the baby boomer ‘bubble’ is upon us and as these people reach retirement age, injuries from falls will, inevitably, increase demands on our already stretched health care system.

The good news? Innovative, evidence-based programs and approaches to prevent falls that can result in serious injuries, such as TBI, are currently being practiced in the United States. Our case study features two successful programs: “Stepping On” and “Sure Step” in Madison and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Local physicians, physical therapists, program administrators, occupational therapists, patients and caregivers give our Public Health Grand Rounds audience a multi-faceted look at the novel ways Wisconsin is addressing the prevention of falls and TBI. The case study explores how communities are preventing falls among older adults with physical and cognitive limitations, and seeking effective ways to prevent falls and fall injuries such as TBI among healthy older adults

Our distinguished faculty and nationally recognized panel of experts discuss the specifics of the Wisconsin experience and how the lessons learned from the case study and related examples can be applied in other settings to improve the health and well-being of our older citizens. Our experts discuss the research, the policies, and the coalition building that is taking place among traditional and non-traditional community partners. The best tools, training, and educational resources available to health professionals and program administrators are discussed as well.