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Falls Free Coalition Identifies Creative Programs and Practices that Reduce Home Hazards

CHICAGO -- The Falls Free Coalition has identified 10 creative programs and practices in home assessment and modification that can reduce home hazards and will recognize them at the joint conference of the American Society on Aging and National Council on Aging today.

The Coalition is dedicated to preventing falls in older adults. At last year's conference, it introduced the Falls Free National Action Plan. In 2003, falls resulted in 13,700 deaths, 460,000 hospitalizations and over 1.3 million emergency room visits. In addition to the pain and suffering, fall related injuries medical costs were over $19 billion in 2000.

"Falls are not a normal part of aging and there are many risks that can be addressed that will reduce the number of falls in older adults," said James Firman, NCOA president and CEO.

Over the past nine months, the Home Safety Workgroup of the Coalition designed and conducted a national search for creative programs and practices. This effort was funded by the national nonprofit Home Safety Council, a coalition and workgroup member. Members of the Workgroup are leading experts in home safety who worked together using the available research evidence to develop a self-nomination survey that resulted in over 60 completed self-nominations.

Bonita Beattie, director of the NCOA's Center for Healthy Aging and chair of the Coalition noted, "The research is clear that home safety assessment and modification is effective only when it is part of a larger risk factor assessment and intervention program. And, home modification must accompany assessment if warranted."

"Falls are such a serious public health issue and it's exciting to see innovative approaches to helping the public, especially older adults, understand their risks," said Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council. "We are hopeful that employing creativity in home assessment and modification programs will go a long way toward helping families realize the importance of making changes to help prevent falls."

The Workgroup believes all programs should implement a continuous quality assurance strategy and strive to measure appropriate outcomes; and should analyze and use those outcomes data in a variety of ways that improve the reach, effectiveness, and sustainability of the program.

Some important lessons learned from these programs and practices were that home assessments and subsequent modifications are complex activities that require careful planning, oversight, and follow-up at all stages. Also, creative strategies noted included collaborating with first responders and other key partners, making use of trained volunteers, and integrating a fall risk assessment program into a larger safety program aimed at keeping older adults in their homes. It was also clear from these examples that collecting objective feedback and employing that feedback to improve programs and processes was uneven.

The Coalition will publish a report later this year that will provide readers with home assessment and modification programs and practices that can be adapted to local communities to promote the safety and well being of older adults when used in conjunction with a larger fall prevention intervention. The report will also include creative practices from programs reviewed in the selection process that address use of volunteers, community partners, and funding strategies.

The 10 Creative Programs

  • Home Injury Prevention Program: Neighborhood Senior Services- Ann Arbor, MI
  • Senior HealthLink: Neighborhood Health Agencies- West Chester, PA
  • SPICE for Life: Pitt County Council on Aging- Greenville, NC
  • Touchmark's Fall Reduction and Awareness Program: Senior Retirement Community Health and Fitness Clubs- Beaverton, OR
  • Fall Risk Reduction Project: Saint Elizabeth Home Care Services- Lincoln, NE
  • Steady Strides: VNA of Care New England- Warwick, RI
  • TriHealth Senior Link Home Safety Check: TriHealth Senior Link (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly/PACE Program)- Cincinnati, OH
  • Community Outreach Services Home Safety Unit: Open Hands- Sante Fe, NM
  • Farewell to Falls: Stanford University Medical Center Trauma and Emergency Services- Stanford, CA
  • LifeAssess: Holy Redeemer Home Care- Philadelphia, PA

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging's mission is to improve the lives of older Americans. NCOA programs help older people remain healthy and independent, find jobs, increase access to benefits programs, and discover meaningful ways to continue contributing to society. A charitable organization with a national network of more than 14,000 organizations and leaders, NCOA was founded in 1950 and is based in Washington, DC. For more information about NCOA, please visit www.NCOA.org.

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