New HHS Fall Prevention Program Keeps Seniors at Home Longer, for Cheaper

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is banking on a new fall prevention program that aims to help seniors continue living at home longer and delay the move to costlier care settings like nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Developed by HHS, the comprehensive prevention program includes clinical in-home assessments of health, physical functioning, falls history, home environment and medications to create customized recommendations.

The program is based on a study in which HHS tested long-term care insurance policy holders age 75 and older to determine whether its intervention was effective and, if so, the impact of the program intervention on long-term care use.

What it found was the program led to significantly lower rates of falls over a one-year study period, where those who received the intervention had a 13% lower rate of falls, and an 11% reduction in fall risk, compared to the control group.

Additionally, HHS noted that as a result of the intervention, long-term care insurance claims were 33% lower over a three-year period.

But not only did the program lead to a significantly lower rate of injurious falls, but it ask produced tangible cost savings among participants. The intervention, which cost $500 per person to administer, saved $838 per person, according to HHS.

The findings are notable considering both the physical and financial consequences falls can have on a senior’s ability to continue living in their homes, as opposed to somewhere like an assisted living facility, where the median annual cost for a single-occupancy, one-bedroom accommodation is $43,200, according to the 2015 Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

Falls, which HHS notes happen to 1 in 3 people age-65 and older each year, ran up a $35 billion health care spending tab in 2014. Since falls are a leading risk factor precipitating a need for long-term care, HHS believes its findings “give hope” for reducing the rate of falls among the nation’s growing senior population.

“While falls are preventable, we need to intervene at the right time in a way that is comprehensive and yet individually tailored,” said Richard Frank, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS. “Preventing falls helps everyone: the older person, their family, and the health and long-term care systems. And this study shows that by investing in falls prevention, we can reduce long-term care use and spending,” Frank said.

Written by Jason Oliva