Fall Prevention Program

The best way to treat a fall injury is to prevent it from happening

2016MLA-SouthwestWash-FallPreventionFalls are a major cause of serious injury and even death among the elderly. A Providence program in Thurston County, Wash., is working to help seniors avoid falls and stay healthier as a result.

The Providence Clinic at Panorama in Lacey, Wash., partnered with Providence St. Peter Hospital Rehab Services, the state Department of Health and community organizations in this effort in 2015. Doctors and other health care providers, rehabilitation staff and community fitness instructors all work together to create a safer geriatric community.

State records show that in Thurston County, 41 percent of adults age 65 or older fell at least once in 2012. Nationally, one in three older adults fall once a year. Falls cause injuries, fractures, hospitalizations and loss of independence. In 2014, fall-related hospitalizations came at a cost of more than $1 billion in Washington.

The fall prevention program trains local fitness instructors in Tai Ji Quan®, a research-based balance training regimen. A study by the National Council on Aging showed that taking these classes reduced participants’ risk of fall by 55 percent. Classes are held in senior centers and at retirement communities. Providence is covering the cost of the class for seniors who could not otherwise afford it.

Providence clinicians also identify which of their own patients are at risk for falls and schedule these patients for fall-prevention visits. Clinicians may refer patients for other services, such as rehabilitation therapy or a fitness/fall safety class. Patients who receive fall-prevention visits are tracked via three- and six-month follow-up visits with their health providers.

As of early 2016, 28 instructors have been trained in Tai Ji Quan®, and more than 100 seniors have taken the classes. Another seven classes were in action as of March 2016.

As the program spreads to more areas of Thurston County, our goal is to continue to work with other agencies and senior advocates to create a healthier senior community.