Kristin Magnussen MSN, RN
Ledge Light Health District (New London, CT)
The 65-years and older population is falling and in some cases, not getting back up. Falls among older adults account for more than 25,000 deaths, 2.5 million emergency department visits, and 700,000 hospitalizations per year nationally. In Connecticut falls are the third leading cause of unintentional death and the first leading cause for injury related hospitalization. The Ledge Light Health District saw this high rate of falls in our community and decided to work together to address the issue thanks to a grant from the CT collaboration for Fall Prevention based at the Yale School of Medicine.
To begin addressing seniors’ safety in their homes, the Ledge Light Health District formed the Ledge Light Health District (LLHD) Falls Prevention Coalition. The LLHD Falls Prevention Coalition represents the five towns served by the county as well as four towns within our Mass Dispensing Area. This coalition is composed of a unique group of partners including senior centers, local hospitals, independent physical therapist, the Visiting Nurse Association, local EMS, and more.
LLHD based their activities on the senior fall prevention program at the Satellite Beach Fire Department in Satellite Beach, Florida. With the money from NACCHO, LLHD provided honorariums to coalition members to provide trainings for MRC volunteers on how to evaluate the safety of a senior’s home and interview the senior in question. Our partners such as Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP) and coalition members were also included in the trainings. LLHD and MRC volunteers also designed educational resources and advertising materials to increase program outreach and impact. Seniors that engage with the LLHD program receive referrals to community resources and improved home safety.
During the implementation, the program did encounter some barriers, especially with the target population. The seniors in our community do not perceive themselves as an at-risk population in need of special services. One of our MRC volunteers is from England and she remarked that, in comparison with her home country, our seniors are confident in themselves and value their independence. Therefore despite our advertising and efforts to reach out to this community, we have not seen the response we originally wanted. Another issue we encountered was that while our volunteers are dedicated, they do not have the time to lead the project. As I wear many other hats in the Health District besides MRC Coordinator, I need to rely on my volunteers to start taking the lead.
In the upcoming year we plan on addressing these lesson’s learned in order to increase the strength of the project and our seniors. Going forward we are changing the message from communicating risk to telling our seniors, “You are too busy and too active to be spending time on the ground.” By shifting the focus to their independence, we hope to increase participation. To increase volunteer time on the project, LLHD is applying for grant money to pay a dedicated volunteer to serve as project lead.
The continued success of this project thus far is attributed to our volunteers and the collaboration of the LLHD Falls Prevention Coalition. The coalition provides us with the knowledge to bring resources to our target population. Coalition members also contribute to improving our reach in the community. The New London Fire Department tweeted about us after we helped one of their clients that was falling frequently and recommended us to the community.
With the continued strength of community partnerships and a focus on the independence of the 65 and older population, Seniors Standing Strong looks forward to improving the safety of our community.
Learn more about NACCHO’s MRC Challenge Awards at http://nacchopreparedness.org/naccho-funds-167-innovative-community-projects-through-mrc-challenge-awards/.