BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Genesee County Office for the Aging (OFA)
Director Pamela Whitmore admits that until two years ago, little
focus was placed on preventing falls among the county's older
adults in home and community-based settings. One-third of the
elderly population experience a fall each year, a leading cause of
injuries for those 65 and older, according to data from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.
Prevention is now on the radar screen thanks to two grants
totaling $110,000 from the Health Foundation for Western and
Central New York (the former Community Health Foundation of Western
and Central New York) that were awarded to the OFA and a consortium
of organizations, including the University at Buffalo's engineering
outreach center, TCIE. Both the population at risk and
health-related providers are being educated on ways to increase
UB TCIE is project manager of Step Up to Stop Falls in Genesee
County, overseeing implementation of a multi-dimensional plan to
improve mobility and balance among older adults. Partnering
organizations include United Memorial Medical Center (Summit
Physical Therapy), Genesee Community College's nursing program and
Independent Living of Genesee Region. Also involved are members of
a countywide Long Term Care Task Force Committee.
"We wanted to offer a diverse range of approaches -- more of a
communitywide approach," said Whitmore, project executive leader
for the grant.
Step Up to Stop Falls officially ends in November, but program
elements were embedded into existing systems to ensure prevention
efforts don't slip from public consciousness. The strategies are
reaching hundreds and include:
* Professional education: As part of a geriatric clinical
rotation, community college nursing and physical therapy assistant
students participate in an experiential learning activity. They
screen residents of senior housing complexes, during health fairs
held six times per year at a different site, to determine their
risk of falling. The test results are given to the residents for
them to discuss with their primary physicians.
* Exercise: OTAGO, a strength and balance training program
administered by trained physical therapists and typically covered
by health insurance, is available through five Genesee County
agencies that provide physical therapy in both community and
in-home settings. The program, offered to those with a doctor's
referral, improves the balance of frailer, older adults through
toning and conditioning.
* Home safety assessments: Older county residents are eligible
to receive an assessment of hazards in their home -- whether they
want one room examined or all -- and suggestions for a safer
environment. No/low cost repair needs are referred to the PathStone
Handyman/Mini-Repair Program through a referral by the OFA.
* Community education: Falls prevention literature is available
at doctor's offices and medical care facilities, and articles on
the topic are printed in Genesee County publications. Congregate
meal sites host casual, small group discussions for participants to
learn from facilitators and each other.
Whitmore estimates that from 2006 to 2008 -- the most recent
years for which numbers have been compiled -- falls in the county
equated to $544,000 in emergency room visits and $3.32 million in
While statistics are not available to evaluate impact, Step Up
to Stop Falls Program Coordinator James Moody is encouraged by
escalating participation rates for each of the core services.
"More and more people are becoming informed so that they can
deduce for themselves how they want to prevent falls," Moody said.
"With prevention, the first step is knowledge and discussion."
Step Up to Stop Falls will be celebrated with an invite-only
"summary conference" on October 16. Anyone interested in attending
or learning more about Genesee County's fall prevention initiatives
should call OFA at 585-343-1611.
A program of UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,
TCIE is Western New York's bridge to excellence by providing a
dynamic link between UB's expert resources and the region's
business community. TCIE's engineering solutions ignite innovation
and technological advancement, and its core focus on operational
excellence drives continuous improvement. For more information on
how TCIE can assist Western New York businesses, visit: http://www.tcie.buffalo.edu
or call 716-645-8800.