There is a significant need for federal programs that aim to prevent older adults from falling to work together and share information. Doing so, government watchdogs say, will make the home a safer place to age in place.
That was one of the key takeaways from a recent report published by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which took a closer look at fall prevention and home modification programs on the federal level.
GAO is known as the watchdog arm of Congress. Its main responsibility is to evaluate whether key government programs are fulfilling their intended missions.
The report found there are nine federal programs that specifically aim to help prevent falls or improve accessibility for older adults or adults with disabilities. Those programs do so by providing home safety assessments, railings, ramps, exercise programs and more.
However, GAO says that these federal programs are not doing a good enough job sharing their findings and other information. It also recommended the CDC examine falls data for adults of various ages.
“The director of the CDC should expand the scope of its analysis of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data to include the prevalence of falls and fall-related injuries among adults under age 65 who may be at higher risk of falls, including adults with disabilities,” the GAO wrote.
GAO is also calling on the Administration for Community Living to better facilitate information sharing among other federal programs and do a better job of communicating to older adults the risks that are present when aging at home.
The CDC reported falls were the leading cause of death from unintentional injury among older adults in 2020. The GAO also found that adults with disabilities ages 45-59 reported fall injuries at higher rates than those 60 and up.
Several leaders in the home-based care space have been prioritizing safety in the home for decades.
The Massachusetts-based HouseWorks, for instance, is a home-based care provider that also provides home modification services. An unsafe home is a significant barrier to aging in place and is one of the primary reasons people move, founder and CEO Andrea Cohen told Home Health Care News in 2020.
“When people can’t do little things like get downstairs to sit with their family for dinner or get out of the house to do errands, their day just isn’t as good,” Cohen said. “You can’t think about care in a silo. You have to think about care, environment and everything else that goes along with it.”
Cincinnati, Ohio-based TruBlue is an example of a company partnering with home-based providers to help make the home as safe as possible for seniors aging in place.
The senior-focused home repair company operates under a franchising business model and specializes in house care, home maintenance and safety modifications.
TruBlue sees itself as “the missing puzzle to aging in place,” President of TruBlue Sean Fitzgerald told HHCN.