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Every 19 minutes, an older adult will die as a result of a fall.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 out of 4 older Americans fall each year. Falling once doubles the chances of falling again. Every 19 minutes, an older adult will die as a result of a fall. A fall can result in unwanted outcomes, including injury, loss of independence, use of opioids, and decreased ability to do meaningful activities. All told, accidental falls among older adults result in 3 million emergency room visits and 1 million hospital stays. The average falls-related hospitalization costs $30,000, and falls rank fifth in terms of highest personal health care spending. Older adult falls cost $50 billion in medical costs annually, with 75% paid by Medicare and Medicaid.

Why it Matters

Preventing falls is key, however, access to falls screening and prevention services under Medicare is currently limited. Increasing access to physical therapy for falls prevention screening and services to Medicare beneficiaries prone to falls could measurably reduce Medicare costs. Two current programs under Medicare could be improved to ensure better falls screening and prevention for beneficiaries: the Initial Preventive Physical Examination, also known as the Welcome to Medicare visit or IPPE, and the Medicare Annual Wellness visit, or AWV. Expanding access to falls prevention screening and services for Medicare beneficiaries would reduce the number of falls each year and save the Medicare program millions of dollars a year by preventing hospitalizations.

Our Position

The American Physical Therapy Association strongly supports the Stopping Addiction and Falls for the Elderly Act, or the SAFE Act (H.R. 7618), aimed at expanding and increasing access to falls screening and prevention in order to reduce the use of opioids that often occur as a result of a fall. The SAFE Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representative by Reps. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., and Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M.

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Additional Falls Prevention Content

A Closer Look at Falls and Falls Prevention

Sep 1, 2022 / Feature

All older adults should be screened for risk of falling. With National Falls Prevention Awareness week happening in September, here's a recap of reasons why and resources to help PTs meet that standard.

Preventing Falls and Reducing Injury From Falls, Fourth Edition

Sep 1, 2017 / Article

This guideline provides recommendations related to adults and the prevention of falls.