5 Things Senior Fall Risk Assessments Must Include (But Often Don’t)

Senior living executives and clinicians often have resident falls as a top priority throughout the community. Rightfully so, as falls can cause unplanned emergency room visits, hospital stays, and even move-outs due to death or increased care needs. In order to best combat resident falls, clinicians know the benefit of stopping the fall before it happens in the first place. Determining which residents are at a higher risk to fall can be a first step in determining approaches, interventions, and even staff ratios.

But with fall risk assessment tools, how can clinicians and executives be sure to choose an assessment that gives the most bang for the buck? Fall risk assessments should toe the line between taking up too much staff time with giving realistic risk in everyday situations.

1. Multiple Floor Surfaces

All too often, fall risk assessments are completed in a therapy room or hallway near the nursing station. However, falls are more likely to happen within the four walls of a resident’s apartment. In the apartment, there are multiple floor surfaces – laminate, tile, carpeting, and rugs. Fall risk assessments should measure balance and mobility on multiple floor surfaces, noting also how residents make the transition to and from new floor surfaces.

2. Bathroom Mobility

With the majority of falls happening in the bathroom, fall risk assessments should include an in depth look at how the residents move about in the bathroom while performing daily living tasks. Ideally, fall risk assessments should have a section to be completed during or immediately after morning and evening care that was observed by caregivers. This will give the most realistic glimpse into what the senior can and cannot do safely.

3. Timed Up and Go Scores

The Timed Up and Go (TUG) assessment is a quick way to determine how a senior fares in regards to strength, balance, and orientation in relation to fall risk. However, most TUG scores are only completed upon admission, quarterly, and upon significant change. Since residents are consistently changing, their fall risk also changes hourly as opposed to quarterly. TUG scores should be completed throughout the day, at different times and in different locations, to give the best fall risk assessment.

4. Prescription Contraindications

Medications can often affect residents in a variety of ways. Balance, vision, strength, and alertness can all be affected by medications and possibly lead to falls or other accidents. Fall risk assessments should include a section for risky behaviors that might happen after different medications.

5. Illness Monitoring

Falls often happen during daily living tasks as well as in the middle of the night or when the resident is tired. Illness, from the flu to a urinary tract infection, can make residents lethargic or confused before any other symptom is recognized by staff members. Keeping residents healthy can be a major factor to preventing falls.

Your fall risk assessment and fall prevention program directly affects resident quality of life and your bottom line. With the right assessments and complementing technology, you can be well on your way to decreasing falls throughout your community. How does your current fall risk assessment stack up to our sometimes forgotten measures?

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