“As the population ages and people live longer in bad shape, the number of older Americans who fall and suffer serious, even fatal, injuries is soaring.” As fall numbers continue to climb, each year, 2.8 million older people are treated in emergency departments and approximately 800,000 older people are hospitalized for fall injuries. Adjusted for inflation, the direct medical costs for fall injuries are $31 billion annually. Hospital costs account for two-thirds of the total.
A serious fall at a senior living facility can be catastrophic for the resident who is injured, and it can lead to substantial adverse consequences for the provider that operates the community where the fall occurred.
Adverse impacts from falls include:
• Injury or death of the resident.
• Residents must move out of their preferred communities when injuries from fall(s) have necessitated a higher level of care.
• Fines or sanctions from government regulatory bodies if the provider was at fault or if the fall was deemed preventable.
• Necessitating otherwise preventable hospital readmissions.
• Readmissions can lead to penalties for nursing homes due to sections of the Affordable Care Act designed to rein in the widespread prevalence of such readmissions that occur sooner than 30 days after the last discharge from a hospital.
• Potentially major lawsuits and associated legal fees.
• Financial repercussions for providers who have moved away from a fee-for-service environment to a value-based reimbursement model known as an “accountable care organization” (ACO).
• Diminished reputation and competitive standing of the provider.
Providers owe it to their residents and to their business stakeholders to do everything possible to prevent falls, while still maintaining resident’s independence and autonomy.
It is true that preventing all falls, while at the same time respecting resident independence and autonomy, may not be possible. But any fall in a senior care setting leading to death or serious injury can be considered one too many.
A holistic approach to fall risk assessment can drastically reduce the frequency of falls in senior living facilities. Considering the limitations of Timed Up and Go and other static assessments, when providers rely on TUG alone for fall risk assessment, they fall short of one of their paramount duties: to prevent falls and keep residents as safe as is reasonably possible.
Is your fall prevention program doing all it can to help keep seniors safe?