King County and EvergreenHealth join forces to reduce falls in the home
July 20, 2012 · 5:09 PM
The risk of suffering a serious injury from a fall is an unfortunate reality for many elderly people in King County, with more than 14 percent of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responses for patients age 65 and older attributed to falls in the home.
In order to prevent future falls, EvergreenHealth and King County EMS are collaborating to provide assistance to elderly community members.
In King County, there are more accidental deaths each year among adults 65 and older attributed to falls than there are deaths attributed to motor vehicle accidents among the same group. Two of the strongest risk factors for falls are older age and prior history of falls.
King County EMS’ One Step Ahead program provides free assistance to patients who experience trauma due to a fall and are seen at a local emergency room, such as EvergreenHealth’s locations in Kirkland and Redmond. The program provides an in-home assessment to determine each patient’s risk factors and to implement ways to eliminate or reduce that risk from causing another fall.
“Almost half of the emergency department trauma visits we see from patients over 65 years old are a result of falls,” said Dr. Brad Younggren, medical director of EvergreenHealth Emergency Preparedness. “It’s during this visit that we tell them about One Step Ahead and ask them if they would like to be contacted by the program. We’ve seen some great results with our patients who participate.”
In a study of the program by King County EMS, a division of Public Health – Seattle & King County, program participants experienced 36 percent less risk of suffering a fall in the home than those not enrolled in the program.
“To successfully prevent the next fall, you need to identify which specific risk factors each individual may have,” said Alan Abe, program manager for Injury Prevention at King County EMS. “One Step Ahead uses successful fall-prevention strategies that match the individual’s risks with specific interventions so that the individual receives a personal program.”
This in-home program provides:
• Education about staying safe in the home
• A home safety walk-through
• Assistance with in-home safety devices
• Information about resources available in the community
After the patient has opted into the program, the intervention specialist meets with that participant at home to identify the exact set of risk factors and to design a prevention action plan. The specialist evaluates the individual’s physical balance and strength, surveys the home for fall hazards, and reviews medical conditions and medications in order to customize the action plan.
The intervention specialist also frequently arranges for the installation of safety equipment around the home to reduce fall risk.
To qualify for the program, patients need to be older than age 65, ambulatory, living independently, at risk for a fall or have fallen in the past six months, not suffering from Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia, and not living in subsidized housing, retirement facilities or nursing homes.
To learn more about EvergreenHealth, visit www.evergreenhealth.com or call the Evergreen Healthline, (425) 899-3000.