Neglected and Nonsensical: Senior Care After Falls

Inadequate Follow-up Care for Seniors After a Serious Fall A Cause for Concern

News Picture: Too Few Seniors Get Follow-up Care After a Serious Fall

Seniors missing out on crucial follow-up care after serious falls

Did you know that four out of every ten American seniors who suffer a fall and end up in the ER with head trauma get no follow-up care once they go home? It’s true! A new study has revealed this shocking statistic that will make you want to shout, “Are you kidding me?” But don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you in our engaging and informative style.

“Only 59 percent of our study subjects had follow-up with their [health care] provider,” revealed Dr. Richard Shih, senior author of the study. He’s not just any doctor – he’s a professor of emergency medicine at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. So, he knows what he’s talking about.

And that’s not all. Even if patients manage to see a doctor after their ER discharge, they often get no guidance on how to prevent another fall. Can you believe it? Shocking, but true! “Of the patients in our study that had primary care physician follow-up, 28 percent reported that there was no fall-risk assessment and 44 percent did not receive fall prevention interventions,” added Dr. Shih in a university news release.

Falls are no laughing matter for older Americans. In fact, according to data supplied by the university, in a given year, one in every four Americans aged 65 or older will suffer a fall. That’s 8 million emergency department visits annually, 800,000 hospitalizations, and more than 27,000 deaths. It’s like a geriatric version of an action movie, but with tragic consequences.

So, what’s the solution? Seeing your family doctor after you’ve recovered from a serious fall is crucial to helping prevent subsequent falls, says the Florida team. But unfortunately, that kind of follow-up often doesn’t happen. Cue the dramatic music!

In their ground-breaking study, Dr. Shih’s team kept tabs on the level of follow-up care for over 1,500 seniors who suffered a head injury due to a fall. All of them were treated at two Florida hospitals’ emergency departments. Two weeks after each patient was discharged, the team gave them a phone call. They asked if they’d seen their primary care physician in the intervening 14 days. And if they answered “yes,” they were asked whether the doctor had assessed their risk for another fall or given them guidance on preventing falls.

The findings were eye-opening. Clearly, there’s a real need for better follow-up care for seniors after a fall. It shouldn’t be left to chance, like landing on a square in a game of snakes and ladders.

When a primary care physician does advocate for a falls-prevention strategy, physical therapy becomes the go-to option. “When referred to physical therapy, patients may be more likely to adopt fall prevention interventions and home safety modifications that have been shown to reduce recurrent falls, hospitalization, and mortality,” noted Dr. Shih.

So, what’s the bottom line? The team strongly endorses the performance of fall-risk assessment and patient education in the emergency department or by the primary care physician. The physician follow-up should include fall-risk assessment and initiation of any appropriate interventions to prevent subsequent falls and fall-related injury. It’s like giving seniors a prescription for a safer life.

Keep your eyes peeled for the January issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, where the full study will be published. And if you want even more information about falls prevention, head over to the National Institute on Aging. They’ve got all the insider tips.

Remember, falls are serious, but that doesn’t mean we can’t inject a little humor into the conversation. So, dear reader, if you’re an aging superhero or know someone who is, make sure to spread the word about the importance of follow-up care after a fall. After all, laughter may be the best medicine, but prevention is the unsung superhero sidekick. Stay safe, everyone!

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SOURCES:News Release from Florida Atlantic UniversityNational Institute on Aging