Resident falls are an important topic in regards to care and cost in senior care communities. According to the CDC, over 700,000 seniors are treated in the emergency room for injuries related to falls. Further, a hospitalization for a fall can cost $35,000 not including follow up care or therapy. Beyond the hospital costs, falls can affect the bottom line and census of senior care communities. After a fall,residents leave for hospital stays or, potentially, for another level of care. Falls are expensive, in addition to being physically devastating for the resident.
Senior care clinicians are constantly fighting the fall prevention battle, trying to keep residents off the floor and out of the emergency room. But even the best fall prevention programs could use a little improvement. These program gaps can be often overlooked, but when addressed, can take a good program to great.
Too many restraints
If residents are falling due to lack of judgment or other memory loss issues, communities once resorted to physical restraints. While those practices are more regulated today, some of the restraint philosophy still holds true in communities. Lap buddies and personal alarms are often a part of the care plan of residents who are at a higher risk of falls. However, restraints often cause much more harm than good. Fall prevention committees should assure that there is are short and long term goals to transition any type of restraint out of the community’s walls and culture.
Not enough exercise
Fall prevention programs often focus on strategies to keep residents sitting down unless a staff member is present. However, a restorative therapy or range of motion program can assist residents in becoming stronger in their lower extremities. Yoga and other balance programs can give residents the chance to successfully transfer on their own, without the hands on assistance of staff. Whether implemented by the activity department, onsite clinicians, or via online resident engagement technology, resident exercise programs can lead to decreased falls.
Too many hazards
Fall prevention programs often overlook the importance of environmental factors throughout resident living spaces. Uneven floor transitions, rugs in bathrooms, and living rooms crowded with large furniture can lead to small paths for residents to pass through. Without a successful environmental fall risk assessment performed in resident rooms and living areas at least quarterly, falls cannot always be prevented.
Not enough eyes
One of the most important aspects of fall prevention in senior care is simply observation. Unfortunately, senior care communities do not have the staff ratios to provide one-to-one care to residents. Communities can bypass this staffing issue by utilizing health monitoring technology. With the help of discreetly placed sensors and monitors, staff members can receive an extra hand from artificial intelligence that gives them real-time information about what is happening with residents inside their apartments. With this data, staff members can notice unusual gait changes, increased heart rate, or even early signs of illness that can lead to falls. Staff can stop a fall before it starts, and residents feel safer when not in the presence of clinicians. Finally, if a fall does happen, staff members can watch it after the fact, determining what led to the spill in the first place and fixing it so that it doesn’t happen again.
Minding the gaps in your fall prevention program is fiscally responsible, and keeps your residents aging in place for a longer time without incident. How do you flush out, and then fix, gaps in your fall prevention program?