As healthcare providers in the geriatric field well know, falls sustained by the elderly are extraordinarily hazardous. The CDC has actually reported that between 50 percent and 75 percent of residents in nursing homes fall every year – a staggering percentage. Not only do these statistics mean horrible things for elderly residents: they can also prove exceedingly negative for the facility itself.
While accidents can and do happen, preventing falls in nursing homes is exceptionally important today. This prevention is about more than providing good care to the people in your facility’s care. It’s also a necessity to ensure that your facility will not fall victim to negative consequences that occur following a fall. Consider these three possibilities that commonly affect facilities after a fall:
- Legal Backlash: In the best-case scenario of a fall incident – one in which the resident who falls does not sustain a serious injury – the staff members and facility must still handle the repercussions of the accident. In addition to paperwork and reports that inevitably detract time away from caretakers’ additional patients and duties, there is a potential for lawsuits and legal action from the resident, their family, or local or federal authorities. Aside from the actual fall itself, litigation is probably the last thing a facility wants to confront, as legal involvement can be a lengthy process and incredibly pricey.
- Repercussions to the Facility: Additional backlash to falls include both a decrease in of your facility ratings and poor survey results for the facility as a whole. These can ultimately affect your facility’s ability to continue working with residents, their families, and other members of the public.
- Additional Work for the Staff: Again, in the best-case scenario of a fall, the patient who suffers will still be required to receive additional care and monitoring after the incident to ensure it won’t happen again. Unfortunately, in a more serious fall, the resident could possibly be injured for life, which would necessitate another level of medical attention. For a facility that may already be understaffed, this adds additional pressure to its staff members.
Along with the harm caused to elderly residents in general, this brief list further illustrates how harmful nursing home falls can be. What this does not represent, however, are the number of deaths that these falls cause every year – which is around 1,800 according to the CDC.
So what can be done to address this – and to address common causes of falls in the elderly? There are three key ways you can take action and work to prevent falls in nursing home:
- Carry Out A Risk Assessment: It’s important for caretakers to understand that there is not a single issue that causes falls in the elderly. Typically, falls occur because of a multitude of factors, so it is necessary to complete a risk assessment of each patient in order to determine whether he or she is a fall risk. Resources such as this guide from MedScape can assist caretakers in monitoring for signs of a potential fall in order to prevent the incident before it ever occurs.
- Create a Fall Protection Plan: Once residents are assessed, it’s time to take the next step in addressing any issues. Is the patient taking a high-risk medication? Are they experiencing continence issues? Do they exhibit a fluctuating mental status? If the assessment has determined that a resident is, in fact, in danger of a fall, then these are the type of factors that caretakers can look into adjusting in order to reduce that risk. Even though it might take time, it’s important to create an individualized fall protection plan for each resident who might be under threat of future injury. This additional time will make up for the aftereffects of a fall that impact everyone involved.
- Build A Culture of Safety: A nursing home facility must cultivate a culture of safety for both their staff members and their residents. Potential action plans include creating a fall prevention team and appointing staff to fill leadership positions. This team can work together to instate a system with regulations and procedures for the rest of the staff to follow. By creating accountability and strict rules on safety, caretakers can learn to work together and rely on one another to better secure and monitor their residents.
- Invest in monitoring tools that can alert staff to a possible fall before it occurs. No prevention plan is 100 percent foolproof, unfortunately. However, modern technology can provide staff with the extra resources they need to truly begin preventing falls in nursing homes. Hello Nurse, for example, can be set up to send out direct alerts to caregivers, facilitating a quicker response time when a resident is at risk of suffering from a fall. Our monitoring system is just one example of the tools available today that are designed to truly address falls before they ever occur – and in this case, it truly is an example of technology to the rescue!
Falls have a history of plaguing the nursing industry as a whole. However, they do not have to be part of your own facility. To continue to learn about fall prevention, we recommend reading about things that do – and do not – help to prevent falls. It also never hurts to research the best ways to instate your own plan and methods. And remember – help is on the way!