STEADI as they go: Pharmacists called upon to help older adults prevent falls

Free online CPE course by APhA, CDC, chock full of pearls, resources

Falls can be lethal for older adults. Each year one in four Americans aged 65 years and older falls, and every 19 minutes a senior dies from injuries sustained in a fall.

Pharmacists who wish to help older adults—defined as those aged 65 years and older—stay on their feet can find training through STEADI: The Pharmacists Role in Older Adult Fall Prevention, a free online CPE course launched by APhA and CDC last March. The course, which is worth one credit, was created through a partnership between APhA and CDC.

“Pharmacists can make a huge impact preventing falls, so APhA was excited to partner with CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention on the creation and accreditation of the STEADI training program. We worked together to identify experts in the field, outline the program, develop content, and bring the training to life,” said Lindsay Kunkle, PharmD, APhA director of practice and science affairs.

The course equips pharmacists with the following skills:

  • Describe the burden of falls among older adults.
  • Identify health conditions and types of medications that increase the risk of falls.
  • Screen for falls, assess risk factors, and offer prevention strategies.
  • Discuss ways of improving patient care coordination to better prevent falls.

Sunny Linnebur, PharmD, FCCP, FASCP, BCPS, BCGP, professor at University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Aurora and a course instructor, said pharmacists who take the course will find plenty of materials to share with their patients.

“The course offers resources from CDC that pharmacists can click on, print out, and use with patients. There are patient handouts that describe how to stay independent and how to prevent falls from the patient’s perspective,” Linnebur said.

Regardless of setting, pharmacists are in the right place in the care continuum to help older adults prevent falls, said Deb Houry, MD, MPH, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at CDC.

“Pharmacists are uniquely positioned to work with both patients and prescribers to identify risk factors and perform appropriate fall prevention interventions, like those discussed in the training,” Houry said.
“It is important that pharmacists use the time they have with individual patients to use these tools as a natural part of their frequent face-to-face interaction.”

Linnebur agrees. “Unless you’re working in pediatrics, you’ll likely run into older adult patients. As the prevalence of older adults increases, we need to take an active role in helping older adults stay fit and have a good quality of life.”

Linnebur added that pharmacists’ background in medication management is a key component to helping seniors avoid falls.

“Pharmacists are experts in medications, and medications are often a cause or contributor to falls in older adults. We can intervene if medications are contributing to fall risk,” Linnebur said. “Older adults may also be overmedicated. They may be a victim of the prescribing cascade, and we need to be vigilant about judicious use of medications for them.”

This fall, CDC will launch a training program for clinicians and clinical staff, “STEADI: Getting Started.” The new program will highlight ways clinicians can address falls, and it will include interview segments with clinicians who are currently using STEADI in their clinical practice.  

Terri D’Arrigo, reporter