STEADY: State will spent $80,000 a year for a fall prevention coordinator to teach Hawaii seniors about staying healthy and active
STEADY: State will spent $80,000 a year for a fall prevention coordinator to teach Hawaii seniors about staying healthy and active
STEADY: State will spent $80,000 a year for a fall prevention coordinator to teach Hawaii seniors about staying healthy and active

HONOLULU — Take careful steps.

When possible, stay in your seat and, by all means, grab hold of that railing.

Simple advice, apparently from much simpler times.

Today, Hawaii seems compelled to pay someone — rather handsomely — to offer such ubiquitous and common-sense advice.

Of course, common sense and government are oftentimes mutually exclusive.

Hawaii taxpayers will spend $81,000 in 2015 on a new government position — fall prevention coordinator, who will teach Hawaii’s senior citizens, well, how not to fall.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, signed House Bill 2053, Relating to Aging, into law this week, which creates the new fall prevention and early detection coordinator position within the Department of Health’s Emergency Medical Services and Injury Prevention branch.

The Department of Health already has a volunteer coordinator but thinks the full-time position will help Hawaii’s seniors remain healthy, productive and active and — get this — save taxpayers money in the long run.

Lawmakers backing the plan note Hawaii’s population of senior citizens grew 116 percent over the past two decades — more than double the national pace of 47 percent. What’s more, Hawaii’s population of people 65 and older is expected to reach 20 percent of the population by 2030.

Some 8,700 of Hawaii’s senior citizens go to the emergency room each year, costing the state $10 million annually in transportation alone. Another $90 million is spent on emergency room and hospital visits for seniors who took serious falls in which they broke their hips or hit their heads, with rehabilitation costs of about another $90 million.

Senate Human Services Committee Chair Suzanne Chun Oakland supports the permanent position. She said no nonprofit or private entity could coordinate fall prevention in the state with the authority of the state government.

Stanley Michaels Jr., 73, an employee with the state Department of Health, is the state’s current part-time, volunteer falls prevention coordinator.

Michaels, who took a bad fall himself leading to a hip replacement, gives presentations to seniors and caregivers, recommending seniors get their vision checked annually and review all medication side effects with a doctor or pharmacist; “safety proof” their homes by removing clutter, extension cords, throw rugs or items on the floor;  exercise; and carry an electronic monitoring device.

The suggestion to expand his presentations through a state-funded full-time falls prevention coordinator and a taxpayer-funded educational campaign emerged from task force that met for more than year to study the issue and determine possible solutions, Michaels said.

Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head, opposes the added cost and is skeptical of the plan.

“There is no question that falls are a major problem for seniors, but this bill, which has been pushed for years, will not prevent falls,” Slom said. “Government wants a coordinator for all of life’s risk,  but taxpayers shouldn’t have to fund it.”




    • When you become old and your vision is failing, your balance is faltering, your muscles are becoming weaker, and your reactions are getting slower, and after you trip and fall in the dark parking lot at night or slip and fall in the produce section of the store, and while you are laying on the floor unable to move because your hip is fractured, and while you are slowly losing consciousness because your brain is swelling because you hit your head and it is gradually crushing itself within your skull, I want you remember your comment above before you lose consciousness and slip into a coma so you can still ask yourself, "Why wasn't I more careful?"

  1. Another waste of money! Stop throwing money at administrative people who really don't provide anything useful for the people in need.

  2. This is about the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long time. I would do the job for half of that and do a really good job at that. I have been taking care of my elderly mother for years and have lots of experience with elderly fall prevention. I bet some government official's family or friend will get this job.. It is not what you know in Hawaii it is WHO you KNOW shameful politicians!

  3. Outraged Conservatives need to do the math: Hawaii's welfare system supports 100's if not 1000's of seniors. One broken hip from a preventable fall will cost the state well over a $100,000 in emergency medical care, follow-up medical care, and rehabilitation and/or convalescence services. A traumatic brain injury from such a fall will cost the state 100's of 1000's of dollars if not more. These types of falls happen every month. So, do the math: If one $81k Fall Prevention Coordinator can prevent just one fall among the elderly then there are two winners. First is the elderly person who has been spared a tragedy and second is the Hawaii tax payer who has been spared the cost. Notwithstanding the lack of depth I observe in the commentary, given all of the journalistic awards, I would have thought the Hawaii Reporter would have shown a little more depth than displayed in this article.

  4. Its always a shock when you look beyond the cost of fall prevention and see the cost, not only in monetary terms, that a fall can have on someone. In the UK between 10% and 25% of falls in nursing homes and hospitals result in a fracture and so we have given homes a trial of our Fall Prevention equipment to help staff in care homes get the early warning that someone is trying to stand unaided.

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