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Older Adult Falls Prevention

Essential Information

Why is it important?

Falls are the leading cause of accidental injury death among adults 65 years of age and older in the United States and in New Mexico. Most of fall-related injuries leading to death among older adults are hip fractures and traumatic brain injury.  A serious injury from a fall can limit mobility and independent living. Falls can also increase the risk of serious injury and early death. Many people who fall develop a fear of falling and may become more sedentary, further increasing their risk for a secondary fall. Most falls are preventable and not a normal part of aging.

New Mexico's fall-related death rate was 1.5 times greater than the U.S. rate in 2017. In 2018, there were 5,829 hospital visits in those 65 and older, because of falls. This is up from 5,515 visits in 2017, an increase of over 5%. Intervention for patients admitted to emergency departments for a fall can be an effective tool in preventing subsequent falls. Between 36% and 50% of patients have an adverse event, such as a recurrent fall, emergency department revisit, or death within 1 year after a fall.

Flowchart illustrating what is being done to prevent older adult falls in New Mexico.What is being done?

New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) established an Older Adult Falls Task Force in 2013 to evaluate New Mexico’s current approach to community-based fall prevention, to develop strategies for effective change, and to mandate reporting of fall fractures as a reportable condition.

Two initiatives were created to reduce the rate of fall-related deaths of adults 65 years and older.  The Adult Falls Program primary prevention was designed to reduce falls and related injuries.  The secondary prevention was established to prevent older adults, who experienced a fall-related fracture, from falling again.

See our Older Adult Falls Prevention Brochure to learn more.

Program Reach

Map of New Mexico showing the areas of the state which the older adult falls prevention program has expanded to.

As of February 2018, the Older Adult Falls Prevention program reach has expanded to 21 counties, including 14 Native American Nations, Tribes, and Pueblos.

Certified Instructors

Map of New Mexico showing the areas of the state have certified instructors.

As of February 2018, the program has certified over 160 instructors in 16 counties, including 14 Native American Nations, Pueblos, and Tribes. Over 600 older adults have participated in the program.

Primary Prevention

The initiative focuses on improving physical activity, clinical intervention, and home safety modification using five evidence-based interventions.  Members of the community function as Master Trainers, instructors, or coaches to provide access and reduce fall-related deaths.

If you are interested in becoming an instructor or attending an intervention, please contact Cheyenne McCravey.

Primary Intervention Evidence-Based Interventions

Tai Chi for Arthritis

Tai Chi for Arthritis was created by the Tai Chi for Health Institute and is recommended by the CDC. The intervention is an evidence-based fall prevention exercise program that improves muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and mobility while reducing joint pain and stiffness. Additional benefits include improved relaxation, vitality, posture, and immunity.

Please see our Tai Chi for Arthritis Program Brochure to learn more.

Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance

Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance is a community intervention consisting of a 6-month class. The class is a group instruction of eight Yang-style Tai Chi forms. The Tai Chi forms have been modified to improve balance and strength among older adults and individuals with balance disorders. The class, composed of 48 sessions, is led by a certified instructor. The class meets two times a week for one-hour.

Please see our Tai Ji Quan Program Brochure to learn more.

A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls

A Matter of Balance is a community intervention designed to reduce the fear of falling and increase physical activity. A group class, led by a Master Trainer or certified coach, meets once a week for eight weeks. Each weekly session meets for two hours. The focus of the class is to enhance self-efficacy among older adults to live independently. A Matter of Balance is now offered in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada.

Please see our Matter of Balance Program Brochure to learn more.


Otago is an exercise program facilitated by a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant in the clinical or community setting. The intervention consists of two phases, the clinical phase and the self-management phase.

The first phase is an eight-week instruction led by the physical therapist or physical therapy assistant. The second phase transitions into a four to ten-month period of self-care. During this phase, the program participant continues practicing the exercises learned in phase one, without led instruction.
Please see our Otago Program Brochure to learn more.

NOTE: If you are concerned about falling, ask your physician if you qualify for physical therapy with otago. This may be covered by your health insurance.

STopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries Toolkit

The STopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, and Injuries Toolkit (STEADI) was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  It is meant to be implemented in outpatient clinical settings to assess patients for fall-risk and referral to individual and community support. The target population for this intervention includes providers, caretakers, and older adults.

The STEADI resource toolkit for healthcare providers includes:

  • Strength and Balance Testing
  • Vitamin D Testing
  • Medication Management
  • Vision Recommendations
  • Home Safety Evaluations
  • Older Adult Education

Please see our STEADI Program Brochure to learn more.

NOTE: If you are concerned about falling, ask your doctor about STEADI.

Primary Intervention Community Benefits

  • More health providers will have the tools to screen older adults for their risk of falls and to refer them to fall prevention programs.
  • Caregivers and family members are trained and educated in strategies to reduce falls in older adults.
  • Increased availability of evidence-based falls prevention and physical activity programs in community-based organizations serving the older adult population.
  • Improves mechanisms for healthcare providers to screen and refer older adults, who may be at risk for falls, to community-based falls prevention and physical activity.
  • Individuals are empowered to promote falls prevention strategies in their communities.

Secondary Prevention

The initiative focuses on improving the quality of care for adults who experience a bone fracture due to a fall. The secondary falls prevention is working to connect hospitals in New Mexico to home, community, and hospital-based evidence-based interventions. The program tracks and monitors fracture patients through the hospital’s Fracture Liaison Service or emergency room departments, to assure patients will be less likely to have a fracture from a fall or a secondary fracture in the future.

If you are a hospital or provider interested in more information about the secondary prevention initiative and the Fracture Liaison Service model, please contact Cheyenne McCravey.

Mandate Reporting of Fall Fractures

New Mexico Department of Health established an Older Adults Falls Task Force in 2013 to mandate reporting of fall fractures as a reportable condition. The fall-related notifiable conditions surveillance program provides essential surveillance and other data needed to monitor rates of fall-related fractures, implement preventive measures, and evaluate the effects of fall-related fractures prevention efforts.

According to the New Mexico Administrative Code all fractures due to falls in older adults is a non-infectious notifiable condition, needing reported within 24-hours of the incident to the Department of Health, Epidemiology and Response Division. Incidences can be reported to 505-827-2427 by hospital emergency departments.

What is reported under the mandate?

  • Incident Type: Fracture Due to Fall in Adults 65+
  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Physician Providing Care
  • Medical Center Providing Care

Gerald Champion: Hospital-Based Pilot Project

The Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center follows an innovative, best-practices model for the coordination of patient treatment and care for osteoporotic and fracture patients. The program offers comprehensive follow-up care for fracture patients to prevent additional and potentially more serious injury. In this model, providers screen fracture patients for osteoporosis and other health conditions that can contribute to fall risk.

Secondary Intervention Provider Benefits

  • The centralized referral and intake system allows for quicker intake and referral for adults and healthcare providers for treatment options.
  • An improved financial return time for healthcare providers due to an established focus-group refining the usability of ICD-10 codes.
  • The quality of patient care increases with a Fracture Liaison Service network in place and appropriate follow-up care.
  • The health of the patients increase as the likelihood of future falls are reduced by referrals to the intervention network.
  • The provider or hospital reputation improves within the senior population.
  • Network partners are recognized as innovative in the future of older adult treatment standards.

Community Involvement

New Mexico Adult Falls Prevention Coalitions

The NMDOH attends and participates in monthly New Mexico Adult Falls Prevention Coalition (NMAFPC) meetings. The NMAFPC sponsors trainings and speakers on relevant falls prevention topics, supports evidence-based falls prevention programs in New Mexico and provides fall prevention informational tools. The coalition membership represents a wide range of public and private non-profit agencies and community workgroups. All individuals are welcome to attend these coalition meetings.

Please visit the New Mexico Adult Fall Prevention Coalition website to learn more.

Adult Falls Prevention Awareness Day

Since Falls Prevention Awareness Day was first observed in 2008, event participation has grown from 11 states to 48 states and the District of Columbia in 2014. The annual Adult Falls Prevention Awareness Day in New Mexico was proclaimed by Governor Susana Martinez on the first day of fall in 2017, September 22. The event raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults.

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