A Comprehensive Approach to Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes
A Comprehensive Approach to Fall Prevention in Nursing Homes
June 2, 2023
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As the population ages and life expectancy increases, more individuals require long-term care. One of the biggest challenges any long-term care facility must manage is patient falls. Preventing falls in nursing homes helps keep patients safe while lowering medical expenses and legal problems. By implementing measures to reduce falls, nursing homes can effectively mitigate these problems and provide a safer environment for their residents.
How Significant are Nursing Home Falls?
Falls that occur within nursing homes are actually quite prevalent. Here are some important stats regarding the risk of falls and their impact on nursing home residents:
- A typical 100-bed facility reports 100 to 200 falls a year
- Up to 75% of all nursing home residents fall each year
- Falls are the leading cause of emergency room (ER) visits for nursing home residents
1 in 3 residents who fall once a year is more likely to experience multiple falls in the same year
- Approximately 10% of nursing home falls result in serious injury, which can lead to a fear of falling along with losses in function and disability
- 2%-6% of nursing home falls result in fracture
- About 35% of fall-related injuries happen in residents who are unable to walk on their own and thus require assistance
- Adults age 65 and older are four times more likely to die from a fall-related injury sustained in a nursing home compared to those living in a private residence
- Approximately 1,800 nursing home residents die each year due to fall-related injuries
Beyond the long-term physical impact on the injured resident, which may include reduced quality of life, there’s a very high economic impact on facilities as well. Fall-related medical costs already account for more than $750 million each year in the United States. As the population continues to age, that figure is projected to rise to $101 billion by 2030, significantly increasing the financial burden on the U.S. healthcare system.
What Causes Nursing Home Falls?
Environmental factors account for up to 27% of nursing home falls. These factors may include slippery or wet floors, poor lighting, highly elevated patient beds, wheelchair issues, poorly positioned furniture, uneven flooring, improper cord management, and other obstacles or trip hazards.
Plus, an increased risk of resident falls in these facilities can be attributed to a host of other reasons, including:
- Medication: Nursing home patients often take medications such as sedatives and painkillers daily, which may cause side effects including confusion, dizziness, or an unstable gait. Reducing the use of these drugs or limiting the activity of those that need them can moderate this risk.
- Staffing inadequacies: Falls happen more often during overnight shifts in long-term care (LTC) facilities, when there is typically just one nurse for every 30 patients. With nursing staff unavailable or unable to respond immediately, residents who wake up at night may try to get out of bed unassisted, often resulting in a fall. In these cases, bed alarms or wandering deterrents are a proactive step for reducing falls at night, activating when a resident leaves their bed or room for any reason.
- Lack of proper equipment: Often high off the ground, nursing home beds may not be adequately equipped to prevent falls. Adjustable beds, bed rails, bumpers, and other bed safety equipment can help to reduce crippling tumbles from these heights.
- Existing health conditions: Certain chronic conditions, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, can exaggerate an unsteady gait. Nursing home staff should offer extra supervision to patients with conditions that may lead to dizziness or weakness when the person stands suddenly to help reduce falls. Additionally, nursing home residents with a hip fracture or a history of falls may be at a greater risk of falling again. Other medical conditions that can increase the risk of falls include epilepsy, Huntington's disease, being underweight or overweight, poor vision which requires corrective lenses, and mobility issues that necessitate the use of a walker, cane, or crutch.
Five Solutions for Patient Room Safety
Successful patient safety programs include ensuring every room is equipped with appropriate preventative measures to reduce the risk of falls, tripping, nighttime disorientation, and other wandering-related injuries.
AliMed’s broad selection of patient safety devices are essential components of any comprehensive Fall Management program, providing an additional layer of security for patients and caregivers by helping to prevent falls in nursing home facilities.
- Non-Alarmed Fall Mats — These durable, impact-absorbing mats help cushion falls and prevent serious injury. With a variety of thicknesses and styles— from ultra-thin, low-profile, or multi-foldable designs for easy storage to easy-to-clean, heat-sealed seams or slip-resistant, non-skid bottoms—you'll find a mat suitable for your patient's needs.
- Bed Rails — AliMed offers an extensive selection of Bed Rails, including traditional models, to help prevent falls when getting in and out of bed. Additionally, Transfer Handles promote safer and easier bed mobility while lessening the risk of injury to both patients and caregivers. Bed Safety Rails assist in preventing accidental injuries caused by patients rolling out. They can also be used in conjunction with other bed positioning and safety solutions to help prevent head or limb entanglement injuries commonly caused by danger zone gaps.
- Edge Protection — Customizable and strategically placed edge protectors securely attach to furniture or doorways to help soften sharp corners and hazardous edges, adding another layer of protection for wandering or disoriented patients. High-visibility color options quickly alert patients to danger areas. For extra protection, Gap Stuffers and Bed Bolsters help shield patients against hard side rails and bed frames, which may help prevent pressure and other skin-related injuries.
- Trip and Slip Prevention— Anti-Slip Mats and cord management devices such as ties and floor covers protect against common tripping threats. Cordless motion sensor lighting illuminates pathways and eliminates nighttime tripping hazards for caregivers, wandering patients, and frequent risers.
- Wandering Deterrents—Implementing certain types of wandering deterrents can provide effective and reliable safeguards against patient wandering such as door and window alarms, wireless or motion detectors, bed or chair sensor systems, and easily recognizable signs.
By including in-room patient safety solutions as part of a comprehensive approach to fall prevention in nursing homes, facilities can help to mitigate the risk of fall-related injuries while improving their residents’ quality of life.