The Latest Guidelines on Preventing Falls in Older Adults

In a surprise shift, the United States Protective Services Task Force (Task Force) which traditionally makes scientifically-based recommendations for preventing or treating specific diseases,  recommended exercise and vitamin D supplements to prevent falls in the elderly. This is a timely recommendation because Medicare will soon cover annual health risk assessment visits and customized prevention plans. So, now these assessments will be free (no co-insurance or deductibles). This is very important information because falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among persons 65 years or older. The death rate due to falls is 10 per 100 000 persons for those aged65 to 74 years and 147 per 100 000 persons for those aged 85 years or older.

Falls among older adults are preventable. In2006, the American Geriatrics Society and the British Geriatrics Society published an updated evidence-based practice guideline recommending that older adults at high risk for falls receive a multifactorial fall-risk assessment and individualized, targeted interventions to address the risks and deficiencies identified in the assessments. However physicians face significant barriers to intervening to prevent falls, including lack of awareness and appropriate knowledge, competing risks, and difficulty assessing risk.

The Task Force recommendations are based on a systematic review for fall prevention that included 54 randomized controlled trials. Current research suggests that clinical interventions, such as vitamin D supplementation, exercise or physical therapy programs, and some comprehensive multifactorial fall assessment and management interventions, can reduce falls and are safe for community-dwelling older adults.

These are important recommendations for seniors. Armed with this information, you can now go into your doctors office and ask whether you are at increased risk for falls and whether she is aware of the Task Force’s latest recommendations on preventing falls? Speak to your doctor about exercise and vitamin D to prevent falls. Remember, to get the right care you must participate in you care!

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