Senior housing providers take the threat of falls seriously. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 1,800 people living in nursing homes die from falls each year. Medical costs associated with falls among seniors may rise to as much as much as $54.9 billion by 2020.
Fortunately there are a number of straightforward means a senior housing manager can take to help reduce the risk of falls. These may include:
Activity #1: Get physical.
One of the surest ways to safeguard against falls is to encourage seniors to take part in some form of regular physical activity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends most older adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, along with muscle strengthening activities two times per week. Ideally a qualified exercise professional will lead seniors through a structured program in order to ensure exercises are both safe and effective.
Activity #2: Monitor mobility and gait.
Seniors who have trouble with the basic acts of ambulation typically run a higher risk of falling. Causes may vary widely, anything from bruise tissue to muscle weakness and balance issues. Whatever the cause, housing managers can minimize the risk through ongoing close observation of telltale markers such as mobility and gait. Passive sensor-based fall risk assessment technologies paired with artificial intelligence can detect deviations from the norm, such as subtle changes in gait, that may indicate an increased fall risk. This type of automated observation can help to alert caregivers to potential fall risks, without placing undue burden on the staff.
Activity #3: Provide safe spaces.
One way to safeguard against falls is to minimize the likelihood of mishap due to environmental factors. Grab bars, height-adjusted toilet seats, lower beds and hallway handrails all can mitigate in favor of a safer space. Every factor of a senior residence’s physical layout can and should be considered as part of a falls prevention effort. Even flooring choices matter. Transition from a hard surface to carpet, for instance, can present a potential peril for those who already have trouble getting around.
Activity #4: Build a culture of prevention.
Beyond these specific measures, falls prevention must pervade the entirety of a senior housing operation. This begins with rigorous training to help staff members understand the risk factors and the ongoing daily remediations needed to safeguard residents. Staff members should know to look for potential hazards – a rug out of place, or stray power cords – and be ready to act on these immediately. Awareness can be a powerful ally in the daily effort to reduce falls and safeguard a space.
Activity #5: Make it personal.
Finally, it’s important to note that falls risk can be a very individualized affair, and so it is important for staff members to have a personal knowledge of each resident’s physical and mental states. Diabetes can drive falls, for instance, as can cognitive decline. The better your employees know their residents, the easier it will be to keep those residents safe and to minimize the likelihood of falls.