Maintaining independence: new program helps people injured in falls stay at home

Published: Sep. 28, 2020 at 5:04 PM CDT
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DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A new injury prevention program is making a big difference in helping people hurt from falls stay in their own homes longer.

Local aging and disability resource centers are partnering with EMS providers to help someone who falls figure out why it happened and then make changes to prevent it from happening again.

It’s a major problem, here and nationally.

The CDC says three million people age 65 an older end up in emergency rooms every year because of falls.

“Falls or falls-related are our number one call, and that’s pretty much nationwide through emergency medical services, all the way here to Door County,” says Captain Bob Schultz with Door County Emergency Services.

Falls can be from something like slipping on a rug, a problem with shoes, or even medications that cause balance or vision problems.

Schultz says first responder crews can sometimes spot the problem and simple changes that a person could make to prevent a second fall, but they had no way to help the injured person beyond that initial call.

That changed this year.

“We created a secure app that they can fill out at bedside that transfers the information directly from the emergency medical services to the ADRCs by computer,” explains Dave Taylor, founder and chief executive officer of the Fall Prevention Alliance of Northeast Wisconsin.

With patient permission, the Fall Prevention Referral Program allows first responders to fill out a simple, secure and HIPPA-compliant form with details about the patient and what happened.

That information is then electronically sent to the the health department or ADRC, immediately connecting them with programs, resources and someone that can help them.

There’s no more waiting for paper referrals that are easily lost, and it helps achieve a major goal.

“That’s really the goal is let people live at home,” says Schultz.

"If we can get into the home and work with the individual, we get a better or more honest idea of some of the challenges that they’re dealing with,” says Jake Erickson, director of ADRC Door County, adding that most people want advice to make changes and maintain independence.

The Fall Prevention Alliance of Northeast Wisconsin helped launch the new program in several communities, with great success.

While COVID makes it challenging to go into a home and suggest changes, the ADRC or health department can still connect with people virtually or through family members.

“One of our goals, our overarching mission, is to help folks stay in their homes or live independently as long as they can,” says Erickson.

For more information about the fall prevention program or to make a donation to the non-profit Fall Prevention Alliance of Northeast Wisconsin, click here.

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