Millions of seniors over the age of 65 fall each year, with astounding consequences that affect both body and pocketbook. According to the CDC, one out of every five falls results in a serious injury such as a broken bone or head injury. Beyond broken hips and traumatic brain injuries, falls cost money – a lot of money. The CDC estimates direct medical costs incurred by fall injuries are approximately $34 billion annually.
In short, senior care communities should pay close attention to falls not only for the quality of life of their residents, but also for the fiscal ramifications on the bottom line. Instead of reacting to falls once they happen, senior care clinicians are constantly working to prevent the falls in the first place. Unfortunately, clinicians are not always up to date on the latest opportunities for senior fall prevention programs. This means that fall prevention programs can grow stagnant quickly. Here are a few tools to keep fall prevention programs updated and effective in senior care communities.
1. Frequent Fall Risk Assessments
Measuring fall risk is a crucial part of a fall prevention plan, ensuring that approaches and care plan interventions suit the needs and challenges of the senior. However, fall risk assessments are often only performed upon admission and then quarterly thereafter, giving clinicians a less than reliable glimpse into the everyday life of the resident. Instead of using an assessment, such as a Timed Up and Go, only as needed, using technology that is geared towards performing fall risk assessments multiple times per day can give clinicians a much better guide when determining when the resident is most at risk for falls.
2. Real Time Medical Information
Falls are likely to happen to residents who exhibit decreased balance or lower leg strength. However, even the strongest resident can fall when experiencing an illness or other acute medical crisis. Senior care clinicians may not always notice signs and symptoms of illness until after a fall occurs. Health monitoring technology can give real time information to on-site staff members, as well as off site clinicians such as doctors or therapists. Quicker diagnosis means quicker treatment, and quicker treatment can lead to a decreased chance to fall due to fatigue or dizziness.
3. A Second Set of Eyes
Seniors can fall anywhere in a senior community, but often fall in their own apartment or living space when staff members are not around to observe or assist in a safe transfer. Artificial intelligence technology offers discreet, yet effective, monitoring of residents in the apartment. This second set of eyes can prove to be indispensable to already overworked and overwhelmed staff, giving updated information about everything from the vital signs to the activity level of the senior.
4. Review Options
If a fall does happen in a resident apartment, it can be impossible to know for certain what happened to make the fall occur. Did the resident trip on a rug or experience low blood pressure upon standing up? Thankfully, health monitoring technology can show a video of the fall after the resident has been taken to safety. The opportunity to watch and review the fall occur can give unprecedented insight into fall risk factors ranging from medical issues to environmental concerns.
5. An Active Fall Prevention Committee
Finally, the best tool in a fall prevention toolkit is an active committee dedicated to exploring why falls happen at the community. These interdisciplinary committees are important to keeping residents safe and aging in place as long as possible.
What technology interventions have you used to manage fall risk within your senior care community?