Preventing Nursing Home Falls
When new patients enter nursing homes, it is important that they immediately be assessed for a risk of falling. If there is a risk, it is crucial that they be protected to prevent a fall. Falls are among the top causes of serious injury and death for elderly residents in long term care facilities. In addition, nursing home falls are often a result of negligence and more often than not, a serious and harmful fall can be prevented.
Sometimes, when people are at risk of nursing home falls, the staff will simply put a fall risk band on the patient’s wrist and leave it there. The band is supposed to serve as a warning to all staff, “hey, this person could fall, watch out.” But a band is not a substitute for both a specific plan and specific actions that will make sure a person is properly monitored and prevented from having a nursing home fall.
What Steps Can Staff Take to Prevent Nursing Home Falls?
As mentioned, the first step to preventing nursing home falls is an assessment. This means checking to see whether the patient has a variety of risk factors which make falls more likely. Common risk factors include:
- Gait (how the person walks)
- Medical conditions that make a fall more likely
- Physical weakness
- Unsafe behaviors that suggest the person might be at risk. For example trying to get out of bed alone when the person has bad balance
- Side effects from medication that might cause dizziness or trouble walking
If a patient has these or other risk factors, it is important to do more than put a band on his or her arm to warn the staff. It is also important to have a plan to actually prevent falls from occurring.
This plan should include:
- Safety policies that are clear
- Appropriate supervision of staff
- Proper training of staff
- Review of any policies and procedures
- Review of all safety data, i.e. past falls and issues
- Directions on steps to take to keep patients comfortable so they don’t try to get up on their own
- Responsiveness to patient needs, so they don’t have to try to get up on their own
- Proper upkeep of equipment such as wheelchairs, and lifts
- The correct number of people helping each patient to protect him or her from falling
- Environment inspection to watch out for hazards that will increase risk of nursing home falls
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers a Falls Management Program Self-Assessment Tool that is a great start for nursing homes in their efforts to prevent falls.
How Can You Protect Your Loved One?
When you are researching nursing homes in which to place your family member, you should specifically ask about fall prevention. Find out if the nursing home has plans to both assess your loved one’s fall risk and to protect your family member from falling. Ask whether the nursing home has someone who is in charge of preventing falls through training, monitoring and upkeep of equipment.
If you have a family member in a nursing home and s/he is injured because the home failed to protect her from falling it is appropriate to make sure the nursing home understands that it needs to change its ways. Our legal system encourages change and improvement through a system of lawsuits and compensation. If your loved one had a nursing home fall and was injured as a result, please call the nursing home abuse lawyers of Lowenthal & Abrams at 888-736-9365. We will discuss your case with you and help you determine if a lawsuit is appropriate.