Hackensack University Medical Center Is First in

Newswise — HACKENSACK, NJ — With May being Older Americans Month, the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center is proud to announce it is the first and currently only hospital in the state of New Jersey to offer a formal program aimed at preventing falls in older adults. Through the Falls Risk Assessment Program, experts trained in geriatric medicine evaluate each person’s risk of falling and prescribe an individualized plan to reduce the risk of falling and to maintain independence.

“Falls are an important health hazard for older adults,” explained Manisha Parulekar, MD, chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Over a very short period of time, just one serious fall can change a person from being fully independent to becoming reliant on others and in need of resources.”

“Our goal is to prevent falls from happening, and if a person has already had a fall, to prevent another fall from occurring,” added Owen Deland, MD, a geriatric medicine physician who is leading the new Falls Risk Assessment Program at Hackensack. “When someone has had a fall, they may be fearful of falling again and become more sedentary, leading to further deconditioning, increasing their risks for another fall significantly. We want to arm patients with knowledge and tools to reduce that fear and build strength, balance, and confidence.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in four older adults falls each year, but less than half tell their doctors. Falling once doubles the chance of falling again. Three million people ages 65+ in the United States each year are treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained during a fall. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling. 

Moreover, being hospitalized for a fall can lead to a cascade of other ailments, such as worsening heart disease or other chronic diseases, due to reduced mobility and deconditioning. According to the American Geriatric Society, falls are the leading cause of hospital admission in older adults. The older a person is when they fall, the more likely they will need to be admitted to a nursing home for at least one year.  

Through Hackensack University Medical Center’s Falls Risk Assessment Program, older adults are screened for factors that may raise their falls risk, such as:

  • Problems with gait and balance
  • Polypharmacy (taking multiple medications, some of which may affect balance)
  • Cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
  • Mood disorders
  • Malnutrition
  • Lower body weakness
  • Vision problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Home environment leading to increased risk of falling. For example, throw rugs, poor lighting, clutter, lack of support like handrails.

After speaking with the patient and conducting a physical examination, the clinic team personalizes a plan of care aimed at reducing falls risk, such as:

  • Referrals to physical therapists to improve strength 
  • Assessment of medications
  • Recommendations and referral to Occupational therapy home assessment for creating a safer home environment
  • Referral to evidence based community programs like “Matter of Balance”. 

Dr. Parulekar encouraged older individuals to speak with their primary care providers about their risk of falling. “If you or your loved one is limiting activities due to a fear of falling, we encourage you to come to our Program,” said Dr. Parulekar. “We can help you improve your independence so you can live life in the community safely and maintain the best quality of life possible.”

This new program reaffirms Hackensack University Medical Center’s commitment to advancing geriatric services. Recently, the medical center earned the prestigious Level 1 Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation, a national recognition that signifies the department’s dedication to gold-standard care for older adults.

People interested in learning more about the Falls Risk Assessment Clinic at Hackensack University Medical Center may call the Division of Geriatric Medicine at 551-996-1140

Learn more about Geriatric Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center.


Hackensack University Medical Center, a 803-bed nonprofit teaching and research hospital, was Bergen County’s first hospital founded in 1888. It was also the first hospital in New Jersey and second in the nation to become a Magnet®-recognized hospital for nursing excellence, receiving its sixth consecutive designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The academic flagship of the Hackensack Meridian Health network, Hackensack University Medical Center is Nationally-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report 2022-2023 in four specialties, more than any other hospital in New Jersey. The hospital is home to the state’s only nationally-ranked Urology and Neurology & Neurosurgery programs, as well as the best Cardiology & Heart Surgery program. It also offers patients nationally-ranked Orthopedic care and one of the state’s premier Cancer Centers (John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center). Hackensack University Medical Center also ranked as High-Performing in conditions such as Acute Kidney Failure, Heart Attack (AMI), Heart Failure, Pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Diabetes and Stroke. As well as High Performing in procedures like Aortic Valve Surgery, Heart Bypass Surgery (CABG), Colon Cancer Surgery, Lung Cancer Surgery, Prostate Cancer Surgery, Hip Replacement and Knee Replacement. Named to  Newsweek’s World’s Best Hospitals 2023 list, Hackensack University Medical Center is also the recipient of the 2023 Patient Safety Excellence Award™ by Healthgrades as well as an “A” Hospital Safety Grade from The Leapfrog Group. This award-winning care is provided on a campus that is home to facilities such as the Heart & Vascular Hospital; and the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s and Children’s Pavilion, which houses the Donna A. Sanzari Women’s Hospital and the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, ranked #1 in the state and top 20 in the Mid-Atlantic Region in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-23 Best Children’s Hospital Report. Additionally, the children’s nephrology program ranks in the top 50 in the United States. Hackensack University Medical Center is also home to the Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center and is listed on the Green Guide’s list of Top 10 Green Hospitals in the U.S. Our comprehensive clinical research portfolio includes studies focused on precision medicine, translational medicine, immunotherapy, cell therapy, and vaccine development. The hospital has embarked on the largest healthcare expansion project ever approved by the state: Construction of the Helena Theurer Pavilion, a 530,000-sq.-ft., nine-story building, which began in 2019. A $714.2 million endeavor, the pavilion is one the largest healthcare capital projects in New Jersey and will house 24 state-of-the-art operating rooms with intraoperative MRI capability, 50 ICU beds, and 175 medical/surgical beds including a 50 room Musculoskeletal Institute. 


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