Falls Prevention Efforts Succeed in South King County

The results are in for the Aging and Disability Services (ADS) falls prevention project that began last April. ADS received a mini-grant from the Washington State Department of Health to pilot test strategies outlined in a draft Falls Prevention Toolkit.

Case managers developed a "digital story" about falls prevention in English and Russian, and to provide culturally-relevant information to residents at risk of injury. Click on the photo to view the video in English.

ADS chose to test the strategies that target seniors living in community residential facilities. Four case managers worked with Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking clients who had a history of falls or were at risk for falls. The goals were to educate them about falls prevention and demonstrate and encourage regular exercise to reduce their risk.

In addition, ADS partnered with FDCARES, a Kent Fire Department program, to conduct home assessments and install falls prevention devices for individuals who contacted 9-1-1 for services related to falls.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of adults age 65 or older fall each year. For adults over age 80, one out of every two adults will fall. In Washington state alone, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalization among older adults.

Workshops result in behavioral changes
Last summer, falls prevention workshops were held at Plaza Seventeen in Auburn and the Ukrainian Community Center in Renton. The workshops taught proactive steps to prevent falls and demonstrated exercises to increase strength and balance. At the end, 90 clients signed "commitment forms" and documented the steps they took to prevent falls: exercise, medication review, eye examinations, and home modifications. In all, 106 people participated in the pre-workshops, including 16 caregivers.

Among the clients who reported taking preventive steps to prevent falls, 97 percent reported one or more changes.

During the summer, case managers called or visited 78 participants and assessed compliance and progress. Follow-up workshops in October drew 128 residents. Special recognition was given to those who made changes to prevent or reduce fall risk.

Participants also previewed What YOU Can Do to Prevent Falls, a falls prevention "digital story" created by the case managers. Pharmacists from the UW School of Pharmacy and Kelly-Ross Pharmacy presented information about falls and medications.

Overall, the information provided at the workshops proved to be very successful. Among the clients who reported taking preventive steps to prevent falls, 97 percent reported one or more changes. Most were between the ages of 75 and 84.

Eye exams had the least amount of activity across all ages. Case managers attribute this to changes in Medicaid, which no longer covers eye glasses. Eye exams are only covered every two years. A client can only be seen more frequently if the provider is diagnosing or treating for a medical condition (e.g., diabetes, glaucoma) that affects vision.

FDCARES exceeds home assessment goal
The FDCARES goal was to conduct 16 home assessments for adults age 60+ who contacted 9-1-1 for services related to falls or were referred because they were at risk of falling. From June through September, FDCARES received a total of 167 calls. One-third (62) of the calls were related to falls—22 with injury and 40 without injury. Residents were also referred by housing managers, health care professionals, fire and other emergency responders, and several senior programs. Some residents chose not to engage in the falls prevention program or declined due to hospitalization, a move into a skilled care facility, and/or family commitments.

Total number of interventions (steps/changes made) to prevent falls, by age. N=158

FDCARES provided falls prevention devices such as grab bars, non-slip bath mats, throw rugs, shower chairs, hand-held shower heads, elevated toilet seats, toilet safety frames, night lights, etc. The devices allowed more independence and reduced the need to rely on 9-1-1 services due to falls. The devices provided are not covered by insurance, and are typically cost-prohibitive to seniors on a fixed income.

By the end of the study, FDCARES exceeded their goal by more than 100 percent, providing a total of 42 home assessments and installation of devices.

Fire departments are very well positioned to provide this service, because they come in contact with and provide outreach to the most vulnerable in our community. The program hopes to serve as a "best practice" for replication in other communities.

For more information about the FDCARES Program, e-mail Tami Kapule (TKapule@kentfirerfa.org). For a copy of the ADS/FDCARES Falls Prevention Report, e-mail karen.winston@seattle.gov.

—Karen Winston, Aging and Disability Services

Falls—Predictable and Preventable!

Visit the September 2012 AgeWise King County for more information about Falls Prevention:

  • Don't Fall This Fall...Or Any Other Time, If You Can Help It
  • Falls—Predictable and Preventable
  • Make Sure Your Home Can Change As You Do
  • Reviewing Your Meds Can Reduce Your Risk of Falling
  • King County Rallies to Prevent Falls
  • Changing Vision and Your Risk of Falling

To read the Stay Active & Independent for Live (SAIL) falls reduction guide for adults age 65+, click here.