STEADI Toolkit Empowers Physicians to Prevent Falls Among Older Adults

July 31, 2015

Every 13 seconds an older adult is treated for a fall that can lead to a range of potentially life-changing injuries. 

According to national data from 2012, unintentional falls were the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for people ages 65 and older. In 2013, 2.5 million non-fatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments and almost 750,000 of those patients were hospitalized. 

These trends are also reflected in Georgia. From 2009-2013, 58 percent of all fall-related injuries in Georgia were leg or foot fractures. Following closely behind were arms and head injuries. Hip fractures were also documented in more than one-third of adults 65 years of age and older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently introduced the Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries (STEADI) Toolkit to help health providers better protect patients at risk for falling or suffering a similar type of injury. 

This resource provides educational information, guides, checklists and assessment protocols that aid providers in evaluating patients for their risks for falls. 

Within the toolkit, CDC recommends physicians pose three simple questions to their patients: 

•    Have you fallen in the past year?
•    Are you unsteady on your feet?
•    Are you afraid you might fall?

If older adults answer yes to these questions, CDC encourages physicians to take action and begin the STEADI assessment process. 
    
CDC’s STEADI toolkit also provides step-by-step instructions for the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test, 30-Second Chair Stand Test and 4-Stage Balance Test. These important evaluations measure a patient’s mobility, leg strength, endurance and balance as a part of the comprehensive fall risk assessment process.

To properly equip providers to conduct the STEADI fall evaluation, CDC is offering physicians a new interactive training module on falls prevention through its CDC TRAIN platform. This free online course demonstrates how physicians should structure each component of the STEADI assessment and intervention process. 

“Contrary to what many people assume, falls are not a natural part of the aging process,” said Elizabeth Head, program coordinator, Injury Prevention Program, Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). “Data shows that once a person falls, they are two to three times more likely to fall again. With resources like CDC’s STEADI Toolkit, providers, patients and caregivers can collaborate to implement injury prevention practices in a patient’s daily life before a fall or related injury occurs.” 

Once a patient is assessed through the practices recommended in the STEADI toolkit, physicians make recommendations which often include referrals to evidence-based fall prevention programs. 

These programs include the Otago Exercise Program, Matter of Balance and Tai Chi. Otago is an in-home physical therapy program designed to reduce falls while the others focus on overcoming fear and increasing balance, respectively.

In Georgia, you can connect with these programs through the state’s 12 Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). Patients can contact DPH’s partner, the Georgia Department of Human Services’ Division of Aging Services, to find a local AAA and learn more about these fall prevention and exercise programs. 

You can also call 1-866-552-4464 (press option 2) to access more information about local AAAs throughout the state. 

“As with other injuries or health conditions, prevention is key in reducing risks for falls,” Head said. “We encourage patients to seek support through the recommended falls prevention programs or work with a doctor to create an at-home physical activity plan to enhance their strength and mobility.” 

Outside of its STEADI initiative, CDC recommends patients follow several actions to reduce their chances of falls such as: regularly review your medications with a doctor; secure an annual eye exam; improve the lighting in your home; consume enough vitamin D through a balanced diet; and keep clear of hazards in household that could cause falls.

To learn more about the STEADI toolkit and online training courses, visit CDC online at www.cdc.gov/STEADI.

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