U.S. Senators George LeMieux (R-FL), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) today joined in announcing the passage of S. Res 633 to designate September 23, 2010, the first day of fall, as "National Falls Prevention Awareness Day." A similar provision was passed last year and in the 110th Congress.
"Falls can be devastating for elderly, often times leading to additional health problems," said Senator LeMieux, a member of the Special Committee on Aging. "Raising awareness can secure the safety of our elders, and even save lives."
"Directing resources to prevention programs, including the prevention of falls, is an investment that pays off in the long-run by saving billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on treatment," said Senator Kohl. "Prevention programs are important because they help to alleviate the rise in health care expenditures, and I am proud to have supported the Administration on Aging's fall prevention programs."
"Falls don't discriminate -- nearly everyone has a friend or family member who has fallen," Senator Mikulski said. "This is an important public health issue for seniors and their families, which is why I fought hard for legislation to make elder falls prevention a priority. I will continue to fight to end falls through public education and research."
"Too many Americans each year are seriously injured in falls," said Senator Casey. "Raising awareness about prevention programs will reduce medical treatment costs and help prevent the tragic consequences of falls on families across the country."
"Falls are the leading cause of injury, death and hospital admissions for traumatic injuries among older adults," Senator Feingold said. "This resolution helps to raise awareness so we can better help our seniors lead full and independent lives."
Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries for those 65 and older, and have a substantial impact on the lives of Americans, their families and communities, and society. Each year, one in three older adults will experience a fall, the consequences of which can be extensive and wide-ranging. The most recent data show that in 2008, 2.1 million older adults were treated in emergency departments for injuries from falls, and 500,000 were hospitalized.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that over $19.2 billion is spent every year on treating the elderly for the adverse effects of falls, including $12 billion for hospitalization, $4 billion for emergency department visits, and $3 billion for outpatient care. Most of these expenses are paid for by the federal government through Medicare reimbursements. According to the CDC, it is projected that if the rate of increase in falls is not stemmed, annual costs under Medicare will reach $32.4 billion by 2020. These estimates do not include other ancillary costs, such as caregiver time, reduced functional capacity, and decreased quality of life.
A number of evidence-based interventions have been designed and tested to reduce the risk of falling. Approaches include comprehensive clinical assessments, exercise programs to improve balance and strength, management of medications, correction of vision, and reduction of home hazards.
The resolution voices support for organizations working to both promote awareness about falls prevention and implement programs to help reduce falls among older Americans, including the National Falls Free Coalition and the Falls Free Coalition Advocacy Work Group, which includes the Home Safety Council, the National Council on Aging, the National Safety Council, the State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association, the American Occupational Therapy Association, and the American Physical Therapy Association, among other organizations.