Vitamin D, calcium reduce risk of falls in women

A new study by physicians at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland reports a 46% reduction in the risk of falls for women more than 65 years of age.1

The three-year study included 199 men and 246 women who were split into two groups with one group taking vitamin D and calcium and the other group taking placebo. During the study, 49% of the men and 55% of the women experienced falls. Of the 231 total falls, 107 occurred in the vitamin D/calcium group and 124 occurred in the placebo group.

Researchers found that vitamin D/calcium supplementation did not significantly lower the risk of falling as compared to the placebo group for both the overall group of study participants or for men. Women who took the vitamin D/calcium supplement did experience a significant reduction in the number of falls. Though other variables may have contributed to the reduction, the researchers say the results are clinically significant.

Reference

1. Bischoff-Ferrari, HA, Orav, EJ, Dawson-Hughes B. Effect of Cholecalciferol Plus Calcium on Falling in Ambulatory Older Men and Women: A 3-Year Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med 2006; 166:424-430.


Free tool to enhance plan for flu pandemic

The Department of Health and Human Services offers a free checklist that home health managers can use to evaluate their emergency preparedness plan for response to a flu pandemic.

The checklist addresses structures for planning and decision making, development of a plan, and elements of a flu pandemic response. The elements include infection control, staff education, staffing during a potential shortage, vaccination of home health staff, and communications. Links to other web sites with resource information are included throughout the checklist.

To see the checklist go to http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/healthcare.html.


Medicare patients become target for phone scam

Home health personnel can help protect patients from a telephone scam that is directed at seniors and people with disabilities by letting them know about the "$299 Ring."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that Medicare patients are receiving telephone calls from companies offering to help them enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. Typically, the telemarketer asks the Medicare beneficiary to allow the company to withdraw $299 from the beneficiary's checking account for this non-existent assistance.

Medicare has received complaints from Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts New Jersey, and Georgia. Complaints have been made against a number of different companies, but authorities believe that the companies are the same and are typically based outside the United States.

CMS says that no Medicare drug plan can ask a person with Medicare for bank account or other personal information over the telephone. In addition, legitimate Medicare drug plans will not ask for payment over the telephone or the Internet. They must bill the beneficiary for the monthly premium. Medicare beneficiaries who believe that they have been a victim of this scam, can report the cases to local law enforcement agencies or to CMS at (877) 772-3379.