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Fall Prevention Initiative Keeps Older Adults on Their Feet


Media Contact: 
Mary Louise Madigan: (216) 698-2521; mlmadigan@cuyahogacounty.us 
Kathie Sizemore: (216) 881-4413; kathleen.sizemore@jfs.ohio.gov 
Timothy Magaw: (440) 592-1315; tmagaw@metrohealth.org 
Stephanie FallCreek: (216) 421-1350; sfallcreek@fairhillpartners.org

Cuyahoga County, MetroHealth and Fairhill Partners partnership seeks to reduce fall-related injuries

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH - Every September, the first week of fall marks National Falls Prevention Awareness Week. Falls put millions of older adults in the hospital each year. The Cuyahoga County Division of Senior and Adult Services (DSAS) is drawing attention to this important health issue and sharing what it is doing to help.

In 2019, DSAS partnered with The MetroHealth System and Fairhill Partners to develop a proactive falls prevention program. This new partnership includes assessing older adults to identify those who may be prone to falling and putting supports in place to lessen the likelihood of a fall that could result in an injury.

“Our mission is to keep seniors safe and independent in their homes,” said Darlene Wade, Deputy Administrator for Clinical Programs at DSAS. “We know recovering from a fall is one of the biggest challenges to independence. That’s why we are implementing this comprehensive program designed to reduce risks of falls for our clients.”

DSAS has been partnering with MetroHealth to provide falls risk assessments for every client in our Options for Independent Living Program. Over 1,400 assessments have been done by DSAS’ case managers since the program’s inception. “Falls are a threat to the health of older adults and can reduce their ability to remain independent,” said Janet Montoya, Community Health Advocacy Initiative Manager with MetroHealth’s Institute for H.O.P.E.TM. “However, falls aren’t something that just happen when you age, there are proven ways to reduce falls.”

At the assessment, each client receives a safety bag with a nightlight, a hot and cold pack, a personal falls risk assessment check list and a home safety checklist. Case managers also do a visual assessment of each client’s home and identify items that pose falling hazards, such as missing handrails or buckling carpets. The case manager then works with the client to find resources to remedy the hazards.

When a client’s assessment indicates an elevated risk of falls, they are referred to “A Matter of Balance” classes, presented by Fairhill Partners. The eight-week class is based on a national evidence-based model, and helps older adults overcome their fear of falling while improving balance, flexibility, and strength. DSAS has been partnering with Fairhill to train staff to become “A Matter of Balance” instructors. To date, 15 DSAS staff members have completed the training.

“If you are over 60, you might be amazed at the confidence that gets built, the fear that gets dissipated and the physical capacity that grows during the eight sessions of ‘A Matter of Balance’,” says Dr. Stephanie FallCreek, Fairhill’s president and chief executive officer. “We’ve been conducting this training for over a decade, and we treasure our partnership with Metrohealth and Cuyahoga County. Together we connect some of our most vulnerable citizens with a program that builds strength and flexibility and reduces fears about falling.”

A DSAS nurse conducted the first partnered class in March 2020. DSAS’ Options program provides transportation for clients they identify as having significant risk. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, DSAS has continued to conduct falls risk assessments. However, the “A Matter of Balance” training has been postponed until older adults can safely gather again.

If you would like to learn more about this initiative, tune in to our Facebook Live session on Sept. 24 at noon for a live conversation with DSAS’ Cynthia Mason and Janet Montoya. The session can be found here.

To read more about Falls Awareness Week, visit the National Council on Aging. For information on Cuyahoga County’s Falls Prevention Initiative contact Cynthia Mason, DSAS Senior Social Services Supervisor at 216-420-6834 or Cynthia.Mason@jfs.ohio.gov or Janet Montoya at 440-592-1317 or fallsprevention@metrohealth.org. For information on “A Matter of Balance” classes, contact Stephanie FallCreek at 216-421-1350 x 111.

For information on all DSAS programs, visit dsas.cuyahogacounty.us or call 216-420-6700.