Elderly Falls Prevention Legislation and Statutes

7/2/2018

Each year in the United States, one in four adults over 65 years of age falls. Long-term physical injuries, such as hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries, are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of consequences and costs of older adult falls.

  • About 20 to 30 percent of older adult falls cause moderate to serious injuries that can limit mobility, diminish quality of life, and increase the risk of premature death.
  • Falls cause over 95 percent of hip fractures and are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury.
  • One-in-five people who sustain a hip fracture die within a year following their injury.
  • Annually, falls among older adults are responsible for more than 25,000 deaths, 2.5 million emergency department visits, and more than 700,000 hospitalizations.

Falls represent a substantial financial burden and with the aging of the U.S. population, the resulting expenditures are expected to increase substantially if more is not done to prevent falls. 

  • In 2015, total medical costs to treat older adult falls exceeded $50 billion, of this total amount, medical costs for fatal falls accounted for $750 million.
  • For nonfatal falls, Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of the financial burden of medical costs, which totaled $38 billion for the two programs. 
  • Medicare spent approximately $29 billion on falls (constituting 6 percent of all Medicare spending for older adults). Medicaid spent $9 billion on falls (8 percent of all Medicaid spending for older adults). 
  • Fall-related expenses for private and other payers totaled $12 billion (5 percent of their total older adult spending). 

 

Percentage of Adults Aged 65 or Older Reporting an Injury* from a Fall in the Preceding 12 months

Fall death rates among older adults

*Injuries resulting from falls that caused respondents to limit their regular activities for one or more days or to see a doctor.

Percentage of Adults Aged 65 or Older Reporting Falls in the Preceding 12 months

Reporting Falls in the preceding 12 months

 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2014.

The State Role

Falls are not an inevitable part of aging and are largely preventable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a fall prevention tool kit for health care providers called STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths and Injuries) to help them reduce falls by implementing the American Geriatrics Society’s clinical guideline for fall prevention.

Some strategies to reduce falls include:

  • Providing incentives to primary care providers to integrate falls risk assessment and fall prevention activities into their practice.
  • Supporting continuing medical education courses or trainings that teach health care providers how to assess and reduce the risk of falls through treatment and/or referral to evidence-based fall prevention programs.
  • Encouraging the concept of “aging in place” by providing support home modifications intended to keep seniors safely in their homes and reduce the risk of falling.
  • Facilitating better medication management to prevent falls.  

 

Return to the injury and violence prevention overview page to learn about other topics and additional resources.


Legislation

Below is a list of enacted legislation through 2014 that addresses falls among older adults. To view current state actions related to falls, and other injury and violence prevention topics, please visit NCSL's Injury and Violence Prevention Legislation Database.

Legislation Through 2014

State

Session Law and Statute Information

California

Cal. Health and Safety Code §125704 (California Osteoporosis Prevention and Education Act) Requires the department of health services to develop effective protocols for the prevention of falls and fractures and establish these protocols in community practice to improve the prevention and management of osteoporosis.

Cal. Welfare and Institutions Code §9450 Requires the development of the "aging in place" concept be recognized and supported by the state as a means to retaining elders in their home with less injury. Requires that funding for education and making home improvements be facilitated through public and private sources. Requires that recommendations for changes in home modification policies and information for home modification projects and products be developed.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. §17b-33 Establishes a fall prevention program within the department of social services that: supports research, development and evaluation of risk identification and intervention strategies; establishes a professional education program in fall prevention; and oversees and supports demonstration and research projects.

Florida

Fl. Stat. § 944.804 Requires the department of corrections to establish and operate a geriatric facility where generally healthy elderly offenders can perform general work appropriate for their physical and mental condition in order to decrease the likelihood of falls, accidental injury and other conditions known to be particularly hazardous to the elderly.

Hawaii

Hawaii Rev. Stat. § 321-225.5 Establishes a fall prevention and early detection coordinator within the Department of Health's Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention System Branch responsible for coordinating provision of public and private services that focus on fall prevention and early detection for older adults.

Maine 2005 House Bill 1214 Promotes research designed to develop, implement and evaluate the most effective approaches to reducing and treating falls among high-risk older adults. Educates health care professionals and providers about fall prevention, evaluation and management and oversees and supports demonstration projects designed to prevent falls among older adults.

Massachusetts

Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 111, §224 Establishes a commission on falls prevention within the department of public health.
Minnesota 2013 Minn. Laws, Chap. 108 Establishes requirements for instructors, training content, and competency evaluations for unlicensed personnel. This training includes the prevention of falls for providers working with the elderly or individuals at risk of falls. (2013 House Bill 1233/Senate Bill 1034)
New Mexico

New Mexico Stat., Ch. 37, § 1, 24-1-36 (2014 HB 99) Establishes a statewide and community-based older adult fall risk awareness and prevention program.

New Jersey Assembly Joint Resolution 52 Designates the third full week of September in each year as Fall Prevention Awareness Week.
Oregon Or. Rev. Stat. §410.420 Requires funds appropriated through Oregon Project Independence to be used for services to support community care givers and strengthen the natural support systems for seniors including fall prevention activities.

Texas

Tex. Human Resources Code Ann.  §161.351-3 Establishes "Fall Prevention Awareness Week." Allows the state's department of aging and disability services to develop recommendations to: raise public awareness about fall prevention; educate older adults and individuals who provide care to older adults about best practices to reduce the incidence and risk of falls among older adults; encourage state and local governments and the private sector to promote policies and programs that help reduce the incidence and risk of falls among older adults; encourage area agencies on aging to include fall prevention education in their services; develop a system for reporting falls to improve available information on falls; and incorporate fall prevention guidelines into state and local planning documents that affect housing, transportation, parks, recreational facilities and other public facilities.

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code §43.70.705 Requires the department of social and health services to establish a statewide fall prevention program, including: networking with community services; identifying service gaps, making affordable senior-based, evaluated exercise programs more available; providing consumer education to older adults, their adult children, and the community at large; and conducting professional education on fall risk identification and reduction.

Wash. Rev. Code §74.39A.074 Requires long-term care workers to complete 70 hours of long-term care basic training on "core competencies," including fall prevention.

Additional Resources

NCSL Resources

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