Taylorville Memorial Hospital partnered with Hickory Estates to implement a program to reduce the number of injuries from falls by the elderly. The initiative resulted in a 67% reduction in falls at the assisted-living facility.
The nonprofit hospital’s initiative earned top honors recently in the small and rural hospital category during the annual leadership summit of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA), which met in Lombard on Sept. 26. The project was titled “Go Steady: A Community-Based Prevention Initiative Results in a 67% Reduction in Patient Falls.”
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with community organizations like Hickory Estates to improve community wellness and population health,” Kim Bourne, president and CEO of Taylorville Memorial Hospital, said. “This award recognizes the remarkable work of many of our Taylorville Memorial colleagues as they make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.”
More than 25% of adults who are 65 years old and older fall each year, said Cassie Watson, a registered nurse and director of clinical support services at Taylorville Memorial Hospital. Falls have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a public health crisis.
Falls are the leading cause of injuries and death from injuries among older adults, Watson said, with 29 million falls occurring each year. That leads to 3 million emergency department visits, 800,000 hospitalizations and 28,000 deaths.
“Contrary to what many people believe, falling is not a normal part of aging,” Watson said. “Providing awareness that there may be steps or interventions to prevent falls and reduce fall risks can lead to increased independence for older adults.”
The goal of the local project was to eliminate falls within the community through education, screening and intervention.
“Falls are very detrimental for the elderly,” Deb Moon, head nurse at Hickory Estates, said. “They can be the cause of broken hips, other bone fractures, brain bleeds and other problems that may not show up for a few days and can be life threatening.”
Any effort that reduces falls helps older adults to remain independent and not have to rely on others for the rest of their lives, Moon said. “I love this program because it offers one of the first lines of defense in helping older adults stay independent.”
The initiative launched in September 2018 with an education session for families and residents. Screenings began the following week, starting with residents identified as high risk and continuing until all 44 residents were screened over the next four months.
Follow-up screening interventions included physical therapy, vision checkups, footwear modification and medication reviews.
The Hickory Estates activity coordinator helped modify a weekly exercise program offered at the assisted-living facility to include more exercises focused on balance and endurance. Hickory Estates also started a walking program, with one resident walking 132 miles in two months.
Since the falls-prevention program was launched, falls have decreased from an average of 20 per month to about five or six per month, Watson said.
By preventing falls among older adults, the program also reduces hospitalizations and visits to the emergency department, Watson said.
Taylorville Memorial Hospital has since expanded the falls-prevention program to Rolling Meadows Senior Living in Taylorville and has screened older adults who live in their own homes and were referred by their physicians. The hospital will expand the program to the local senior center this fall.
A national panel of quality experts judged the 57 projects submitted by hospitals and health systems in Illinois for IHA’s Quality Excellence Achievement Awards.