Falls are among
the most serious and common problems that threaten independence and
quality of life for older adults. Seniors visited the emergency room
28,224 times in 2010 with fall-related injuries, at a cost of over $19
million, according to the Maryland Health Services Cost Review
Commission. Of these injuries, 4,043 (14.3 percent) occurred in the
In response to
this serious public health problem, legislation was introduced in 2012
by Del. Sam Arora. Though the legislation did not pass, lawmakers asked
the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Department of
Aging (MDoA) jointly develop a statewide protocol for home safety
inspections for seniors discharged from the hospital following a fall.
DHMH and MDoA put
together a Falls Protocol Workgroup in August 2012 and met over the
next 3 months to work on this project. The workgroup consisted of
professionals with expertise in falls prevention programs and working
with seniors. The various disciplines represented on the workgroup
included home care and hospital administration, physical therapy, public
health, social work, law, nursing, medicine, optometry, and pharmacy.
The workgroup did
a careful review and examination of the existing literature on
effective falls prevention programs and home safety checklists. The
final protocol approved by the workgroup uses a comprehensive approach
and includes an assessment of the home environment, medication
management, vision screening, and an assessment of gait and balance. The
completed protocol and checklist were submitted to the Health and
Government Operations Committee of the Maryland General Assembly in
falls are preventable. The protocol is intended to serve the dual
functions of assessing the home and educating individuals about safety.
The new protocol is also intended for use as an awareness and
educational tool for community efforts to reduce falls.
For seniors living independently or others who might be at risk of following, the following actions are recommended:
the home safer. Remove tripping hazards like books and papers from
stairs. Remove small throw rugs or use double-sided tape to hold them
in place. Install grab bars next to the toilet or shower.
Have their health care
provider review medicines. Some medicines or combinations of medicines
can make you sleepy or dizzy and cause you to fall.
Have vision checked. Have
your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Poor vision
can increase your chance of falling.
Begin a regular exercise program. Exercise improves strength and balance, as well as coordination.
To download a copy of the falls protocol and checklist, click here
to learn more about efforts to prevent falls in Maryland.