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Hackensack University Medical Center is first in New Jersey to create dedicated program to assess and reduce the risk of falls in older adults

With May being Older Americans Month, the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center is proud to announce it is the first and currently only hospital in the state of New Jersey to offer a formal program aimed at preventing falls in older adults. Through the Falls Risk Assessment Program, experts trained in geriatric medicine evaluate each person's risk of falling and prescribe an individualized plan to reduce the risk of falling and to maintain independence.

"Falls are an important health hazard for older adults," explained Manisha Parulekar, MD, chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center. "Over a very short period of time, just one serious fall can change a person from being fully independent to becoming reliant on others and in need of resources."

"Our goal is to prevent falls from happening, and if a person has already had a fall, to prevent another fall from occurring," added Owen Deland, MD, a geriatric medicine physician who is leading the new Falls Risk Assessment Program at Hackensack. "When someone has had a fall, they may be fearful of falling again and become more sedentary, leading to further deconditioning, increasing their risks for another fall significantly. We want to arm patients with knowledge and tools to reduce that fear and build strength, balance, and confidence."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four older adults falls each year, but less than half tell their doctors. Falling once doubles the chance of falling again. Three million people ages 65+ in the United States each year are treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained during a fall. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. 

Moreover, being hospitalized for a fall can lead to a cascade of other ailments, such as worsening heart disease or other chronic diseases, due to reduced mobility and deconditioning. According to the American Geriatric Society, falls are the leading cause of hospital admission in older adults. The older a person is when they fall, the more likely they will need to be admitted to a nursing home for at least one year.  

Through Hackensack University Medical Center's Falls Risk Assessment Program, older adults are screened for factors that may raise their falls risk, such as:

  • Problems with gait and balance
  • Polypharmacy (taking multiple medications, some of which may affect balance)
  • Cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia
  • Mood disorders
  • Malnutrition
  • Lower body weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Home environment leading to increased risk of falling. For example, throw rugs, poor lighting, clutter, lack of support like handrails.

After speaking with the patient and conducting a physical examination, the clinic team personalizes a plan of care aimed at reducing falls risk, such as:

  • Referrals to physical therapists to improve strength 
  • Assessment of medications
  • Recommendations and referral to Occupational therapy home assessment for creating a safer home environment
  • Referral to evidence based community programs like "Matter of Balance". 

Dr. Parulekar encouraged older individuals to speak with their primary care providers about their risk of falling. "If you or your loved one is limiting activities due to a fear of falling, we encourage you to come to our Program," said Dr. Parulekar. "We can help you improve your independence so you can live life in the community safely and maintain the best quality of life possible."

This new program reaffirms Hackensack University Medical Center's commitment to advancing geriatric services. Recently, the medical center earned the prestigious Level 1 Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation, a national recognition that signifies the department's dedication to gold-standard care for older adults.

People interested in learning more about the Falls Risk Assessment Clinic at Hackensack University Medical Center may call the Division of Geriatric Medicine at 551-996-1140

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The ICAA welcomes your news submissions. Please send your press releases to colinmilner@icaa.cc-the ICAA's email for submissions-and staff will consider your news for possible publication. Newsworthy topics include such things as center/community openings; initiative or campaign launches; announcements of awards, promotions or grants; and other topics of interest to active-aging professionals.


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