September 18-22 is Falls Prevention Awareness Week. ACL’s National Falls Prevention Resource Center created this public health observance to raise awareness of the impact of falls and help people take action to prevent them.
The importance of falls prevention cannot be understated for the populations ACL serves. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 36 million older Americans experience a fall each year. Among older adults, one out of five falls cause a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury. As a result, falls are the leading cause of injury and death among people over age 65. For this population, falls and resulting injuries also can increase the likelihood of nursing-home admission. Injuries sustained due to falls are also a major threat to the health and independence of millions of people with disabilities. Moreover, recent data suggest that falls are under reported among people with disabilities; a 2022 report from the General Accountability Office found that self-reported falls among adults with disabilities aged 45 to 59 were even higher than those reported by people 60 and over.
The good news is that people can take action to reduce their risk. Evidence-based falls prevention programs, which combine education and exercise, can help people build strength, stability, and flexibility while also having fun and socializing with others. These falls prevention programs can also provide evaluation of home safety and, if needed, can make home modifications. This includes actions such as removing rugs that can create tripping hazards or installing grab bars in bathrooms, which can make a big difference. Regularly reviewing the medicines a person takes with a doctor or pharmacist can help identify increased risk of falling and provide an opportunity to take additional precautions.
The theme of this year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Week is From Awareness to Action. In keeping with that important theme, we’ve pulled together just a few of the many programs and resources that ACL funds across its programs to help prevent falls or improve accessibility for older adults or adults with disabilities, including providing evidence-based falls prevention, home assessments, or home modifications. Keeping reading (or check these out at ACL.gov):
- ACL’s Administration on Aging awards grants to community organizations to offer evidence-based falls prevention programs for older adults and adults with disabilities. Programs vary based on local needs, but all have been proven to significantly reduce falls, falls risk factors, and costs associated with falls. In addition, ACL just launched its first-ever ACL Innovation Lab that will help to advance falls prevention through research, demonstration projects, and evaluation.
- National Council on Aging’s (NCOA’s), Falls Free CheckUp is a 13-question online screening tool that individuals, family caregivers, or service providers can use to help determine a person’s risk of falling. The questions address factors that can lead to falls, such as medications and recent history of falls. No personally identifiable information is collected from the survey. The tool, which is available in both Spanish and English, provides a personalized report that the user can share with their health care provider to discuss options for reducing risks.
- This article from NCOA, which operates the ACL-funded National Falls Prevention Resource Center, covers how falls prevention programs can help people avoid falls and know how to respond if they do fall.
- Watch this video from NCOA to find out how participating in two of these programs helped an older adult in New Hampshire regain her mobility (and confidence) after a serious fall.
- The NCOA falls prevention webpage, Get the Facts on Falls Prevention offers falls prevention statistics, tools that providers and organizations can use in their own falls prevention efforts, and a 2-minute video that highlights 6 Easy Steps to Avoid a Fall.
- ACL’s National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) has funded a number of studies focusing on understanding, preventing, and responding to falls among people with disabilities. Recent projects include the development of a phone app to measure the of risk of falls among adults with mobility disabilities who use wheelchairs; a study of how fear of falling can negatively impact adults with disabilities; and the release of Policy to Practice: Falls in Adults with Intellectual Disabilities, which used baseline data from the Longitudinal Health and Intellectual Disability Study to examine the prevalence of falls and potential risk factors for falls in adults with I/DD.
- The Home Usability Program, operated by the NIDILRR-funded Research and Training Center on Promoting Interventions for Community Living, offers a range of resources to help disabled people identify problems in their environment that can lead to falls and make changes to increase usability. The program includes information on how people can access resources to assist with home modifications.
- The University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDDs), funded by ACL’s Administration on Disabilities, are developing falls prevention checklists for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, conducting environmental assessments, providing guidance on home modifications, and providing training on falls prevention and intervention strategies.
- ACL’s Housing and Services Resources Center offers a wide range of resources related to preventing falls and injuries from falls through home assessments, home modifications and repairs, and assistive technology. The What’s New webpage includes a list of upcoming webinars, trainings, technical assistance, and tools. The resource center will be releasing two new Home Modification Action Guides this fall. Recent webinars include:
- Partnerships to Increase Housing Stability Through Assistive Technology, Home Modifications, and Repairs. This webinar explored the role of home modifications, assistive technology (AT), and home repairs in promoting accessible, stable housing.
- Building and Sustaining Home Modification Collaborations: Strategies for Your Community. This webinar explored the many opportunities to use cross-sector collaboration to expand access to home modification. Staff from the University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology were “in the office” to answer questions and offer other solutions.