Wednesday, June 17, 2015

HHS Funded Study - Comprehensive Prevention Program Effectively Reduces Falls among Older People

Dan Ciolek

On June 8, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a press release announcing the results of a HHS-supported study evaluating a successful falls intervention program for older adults.

In the press release, HHS states that families and providers have a new tool in the fight against falls- a comprehensive prevention program developed by HHS that reduces both falls and resulting use of long-term care, such as assisted living communities and nursing homes. The prevention program, which includes clinical in-home assessments of health, physical functioning, falls history, home environment, and medications to create customized recommendations, was developed by HHS based on the research evidence on risk factors and interventions. Using a randomized control trial, the program was tested among long-term care insurance policy holders age 75 and older to determine whether the intervention was effective and, if so, the impact on long-term care utilization.

The study found that the program led to significantly lower rates of falls over a one-year study period. Those who received the intervention had a 13 percent lower rate of falls, and an 11 percent reduction in risk of falling compared to the control group. Participants also had a significantly lower rate of injurious falls. Long-term care insurance claims were 33 percent lower over a three-year period. The intervention, which cost $500 per person to administer, saved $838 per person.

Falls- which happen to 1 in 3 people age 65 and over every year-- can cause pain, suffering, and death, and cost an estimated $35 billion in health care spending in 2014. They are a leading risk factor for needing long-term care at home or in a nursing facility. Given the impact of falls, findings from the HHS-funded study give hope for reducing the rate of falls among the growing population of older adults.

While the focus of the study was on community dwelling persons, many of the components could be applicable to fall prevention programs in assisted living communities and skilled nursing centers.

For more information in the study design see The Effect of Reducing Falls on Long-Term Care Expenses: Final Design Report. The research study results are published in the June 2015 Health Affairs journal on a pre-article or per-subscription payment basis.

Earlier this year, NCAL released a consumer fact sheet for residents and families to work with assisted living providers on trying to manage the risk for falls among residents. That, along with other resources, can be found on the NCAL website at http://bit.ly/NCALfalls.

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