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Health Dept: Injuries from Falls Leading Cause of Death for TN Seniors

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Health; September 23, 2014:

Falls Prevention Awareness Day is Sept. 23, 2014

NASHVILLE – A simple fall may be just a nuisance for many people, but for a senior adult it can be a matter of life or death. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has declared September 23, 2014 as Falls Prevention Awareness Day to promote simple ways to prevent and reduce falls among older adults.

“Falls and the resulting injuries can lead to loss of independence for seniors and disrupt families,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “For any of us, a fall can range from a brief embarrassment to a life change, all in an instant. This awareness day is an opportunity for everyone, but especially for older adults and their support communities, to learn how to reduce fall risks so our seniors can stay independent for as long as possible.”

Falls are the leading cause of emergency department visits, hospitalizations and death for Tennesseans over the age of 65. In 2012, there were 212,254 emergency department visits; 17,629 hospitalizations and 590 deaths due to falls in Tennessee. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates Tennessee spent more than $400 million in medical costs due to falls in 2010 alone.

TDH recommends the following simple strategies for preventing falls among older adults:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Have annual vision checks
  • Review medications with your health care provider to reduce side effects
  • Wear sensible shoes
  • Use a handrail when on stairs.
  • Always use another balance point besides your two feet. Make a pact with your spouse, a loved one, or a friend to hold on to each other while walking.
  • Perform a simple fall prevention checklist to reduce hazards. The CDC has a checklist available online at www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/toolkit/checklistforsafety.htm.

In July, the Tennessee Department of Health trained 20 individuals to lead “Stepping On” classes. Stepping On is a comprehensive falls prevention program designed to change behaviors and increase self-confidence for people over 65 years of age and reduce the fear that leads to inactivity and withdrawal from social activities. Conducted by occupational therapists and other subject matter experts, the program consists of one two-hour session each week for seven weeks covering topics including appropriate footwear; household safety hazards; the effect of vision and medication management on fall risk; tips for staying safe outside the home; fall prevention strategies and how to cope if a fall does occur. Classes also feature fun, easy strength and balance exercises to improve mobility and self-assurance. If you are interested in hosting a class in your area, contact Terrence Love at Terrence.Love@tn.gov.

This year’s Falls Prevention Awareness Day theme, Strong Today – Falls Free® Tomorrow, highlights the important roles professionals, older adults, caregivers and family members play in raising awareness and preventing falls in the older adult population. Falls Prevention Awareness Day is sponsored by the National Council on Aging. Learn more at www.ncoa.org/improve-health/center-for-healthy-aging/falls-prevention/falls-prevention-awareness.html.

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Candidates Say They’d Streamline Senior Services

The two leading candidates for governor tried to win over elder voters in Nashville Friday with messages of making services more accessible to them and their care givers, but both offered different approaches.

Democratic candidate Mike McWherter told seniors at the AARP “Conversation with Tennessee’s Next Governor” event that the state needs a cabinet-level officer and a full department devoted to coordinating senior services. Calling it “one-stop shopping,” he said its cost would be minimal, especially if it consolidates and reorganizes services that already exist.

“Frankly, I think consolidating a lot of these services may create some efficiencies that literally  pay for themselves,” he said, adding that the one agency could refer people to the services that they need.

Bill Haslam, a Republican mayor of Knoxville, told the same group he can’t promise that the state has the money to make any major changes right now, but said there are other creative ways to streamline services so seniors and their caregivers have an easier time navigating through the system.

“Everyone understands we’re in tight budget times, so we need to work smarter to solve these same issues,” he said.

While Haslam didn’t offer specifics, he did point to the development of a 311 phone number in Knoxville for people to call with questions about local government services and said the same approach might work with senior services statewide.

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Press Releases

AARP: Lawmakers Approve Senior-Abuse Protection Legislation

Press Release from the Tennessee Chapter of AARP, June, 3, 2010:

Effort to create a Cabinet-level Department on Aging fails

NASHVILLE – Tennessee lawmakers this year adopted legislation to protect seniors from abuse and scams, but stopped short of consolidating dozens of programs for the elderly scattered across 23 state departments and agencies.

As the 2010 legislative session wound toward a close, lawmakers unanimously approved a bill seeking to protect seniors and others from abuse by health care providers. The Senate sent the governor the Elderly and Disabled Adults Protection Act (SB2297/HB2284) on a 27-0 vote on Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Kyle and Rep. Dennis Ferguson, requires licensed health care professionals and health care facilities to conduct a registry check on national and state adult abuse and sexual offender registries before hiring a person who provides direct patient care.

While the measure was not as expansive as the bill initially sought by the administration in 2009, AARP supported it as an additional means of providing a safe environment for seniors in nursing homes and other facilities. “Protection of our most vulnerable adults must be a priority,” AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director Patrick Willard said. “This bill provides an extra degree of protection for those who cannot defend themselves.”

Lawmakers voted to protect consumers in a wide variety of ways in 2010, including bills to prevent unwanted phone solicitations and following national models for guardianship and conservatorship laws.

A bill sought by several senior and disability groups that would create a Department of Aging, however, stalled in the Senate Government Operations Committee. The bill followed the recommendations of an administration study as the first step toward consolidating programs for seniors. The legislation had the support of the Bredesen administration, senior groups including AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association, and disability groups including the Tennessee Disability Coalition. Senators stopped the bill saying they were awaiting the report of a joint study committee.

Other bills adopted by the legislature affecting seniors include:

SB 444/HB 608 by Rep. Mike Stewart and Sen. Doug Overbey to incorporate provisions of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act in Tennessee law. The legislation makes clear the intent for the uniform law to serve as a supplement to the provisions of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act to provide a basis for determining jurisdiction between this state and other states or foreign countries in any cases involving the protection of an adult by the courts of different states or countries. This bill’s effective date is January 1, 2011, and is applicable to proceedings that begin on or after January 1, 2011.

SB 2501/HB 2503 by Rep. Gary Moore and Sen. Joe Haynes which creates an offense for a person to conceal or misrepresent a telephone number. Violations are punishable as a Class A misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $2,500 for each violation.

SB 2832/HB 2778 by Rep. Jim Hackworth and Sen. Andy Berke to allow family members intervention when an adult is abused or neglected. Establishes that family members may obtain court orders to intervene when a relative adult is being intentionally abused, neglected, or exploited. The legislation creates a process for a relative to petition the court for an order of protection, for a period of time not to exceed 120 days, for an adult who is unable to protect him or herself from abuse, neglect, exploitation, or misappropriation of real or personal property. It is a Class A misdemeanor for an individual to violate the newly created order of protection.

SB 2903/HB 2941 by Rep. Jim Hackworth and Sen. Randy McNally to create a missing senior citizen alert program for persons with dementia or physical impairment. The bill requires local law enforcement agencies to verify a person is missing, enter the information in to the National Crime Information Center, identify and maintain additional local resources that can be utilized, such as reserve units and K-9 units, and requires law enforcement to send alerts to designated media at their discretion.

SB 2570/HB 3265 by Rep. Phillip Johnson and Sen. Mike Faulk to allow online driver safety course for seniors to qualify for insurance premium discounts subject to the approval of the Department of Safety.

SB 3528/HB 3310 by Sen. Doug Overbey and Rep. Joe Armstrong provides funds through a hospital coverage fee to offset TennCare cuts that would affect seniors. The legislation was supported by AARP because of the impact of the proposed cuts on Tennessee hospitals and rehabilitation, occupational and physical therapy services.

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Press Releases

Senate Passes Bill to Combat Phone Scams Against Seniors

Press Release from Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, Feb. 18, 2010:

Bill would fine deceptive dialers up to $2,500 per call

NASHVILLE – Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Nashville, applauded the Senate’s unanimous vote Thursday to pass his bill designed to protect senior citizens by prohibiting the use of autodialers to disguise phone numbers.

“This is a big step toward protecting senior citizens from being taken advantage of by swindlers looking to make a quick buck,” Haynes said.

The bill (SB2501) would make it a Class A misdemeanor for anyone in the state to use a false or concealed number through an autodialer to call another Tennessee phone number. Offenders would be fined up to $2,500 for each deceptive call.

Haynes has received complaints from Davidson County residents saying their senior citizen relatives and friends have received outrageous contract offers from insurance agents, pest control companies and people posing as home repair agencies.

Political candidates, schools, businesses and charities still would be allowed to use autodialers, as long as their Tennessee phone number and name were displayed through caller identification. A political candidate would have to sign a written document authorizing the owner of the autodialer to use the candidate’s phone number.

Phone companies would not be held liable under the measure, which would apply only to calls within Tennessee. The House version, sponsored by Rep. Gary Moore (D-Joelton), awaits a subcommittee vote.

“We’re closer to making sure our senior citizens and their families can identify who is calling. They deserve to know who is on the other end of the line,” Haynes said.

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Senator Joe Haynes represents portions of Davidson County. Contact him at sen.joe.haynes@capitol.tn.gov or (615) 741-6679 or G19 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0220.