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Jacobi’s Innovative ‘Falls Prevention’ Program for Seniors

Falls Prevention Group Team Photo: (from left to right): Brenda Ayala, Asst. Coordinating Manager Patient Care Services; Virginia Tufaro, RN, MPA; Injury Prevention and Outreach Coordinator Stephen Leonard, MHA, OTR/L, Director Rehabilitative Services; a Jacobi patient; Mark Graziano, OT Outpatient Supervisor; Michelle Stern, MD, Chairperson Rehabilitation Medicine; a Jacobi patient in a wheelchair; Rami Weiss, Director OT; and Robert Rodriguez, Customer Service Representative East Coast Orthotic and Prosthetic Corp.

In July 2015, NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi kicked off a unique new program to identify and help older patients at risk for falls. Falls are a leading cause of injury for adults 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and many older adults and their families are not aware of the factors that put seniors at risk. In collaboration with the State Department of Health, Jacobi has developed a program to educate patients about the risk factors that contribute to falls and to help minimize these risks through intervention.

“Many of our older seniors are at risk for falls, which can result in serious injury. This Falls Prevention Program aims to improve health outcomes and quality of life for many in our community,” said Dr. Michelle Stern, Chairperson, Rehabilitation Medicine.

This year, 39 percent of Jacobi’s 1,600 trauma patients had been injured in fall-related accidents. A multidisciplinary task force was created to focus on prevention of falls with serious injury. Last March, the trauma service hired an Injury Prevention Coordinator who is instrumental in educating practitioners in early screening, identification and referral of at-risk patients. The program is currently treating between six and eight patients a week and anticipates larger numbers after the introduction of meaningful use screening in December. Any patient who has fallen or is identified as having a risk for falls may be referred to the program. The Falls Prevention workgroup is comprised of the leadership within Occupational Therapy, Public Relations, Social Work, Homecare Agencies, Medical Practices and the Trauma Service Divisions.

Jacobi is now planning to expand its Falls Prevention Program. In September, Jacobi received a grant from the National Institute of Health to provide evidence-based training for health professionals to teach at-risk patients about fall prevention.

“We’re trying to find ways to have more community outreach and the grant will enable us to do that,” said Stephen Leonard, MHA, OTR/L, Director of Rehabilitative Services at Jacobi.

In conjunction with the State Department of Health, Jacobi participated in the second annual Falls Prevention and Safety Awareness Day September 23rd, educating nearly 300 patients, family members and staff, as well as providing supplies to assist with fall prevention.

Additional plans to expand the program to NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx are currently under way. This expansion will give New York City Health + Hospitals patients accessibility to Falls Prevention at both hospitals and improve community outreach into the north Bronx.