People in nursing homes are there because of health and self-care challenges that make it unsafe for them to remain at home. They might be dealing with a lengthy list of maladies and disabilities.
Those frailties make them more susceptible to falling. Even a minor fall can cause serious injuries and life-threatening complications. In fact, fall risk is one of the greatest dangers for nursing home patients.
Understanding the risks of falls
The risks that come with elderly residents falling are more serious than you might think. Conditions like brittle bones and osteoporosis can mean that they suffer bone injuries when in falls that might cause only bruises or a pulled muscle in younger and healthier people. Broken bones, like broken hips, can cause serious problems for the person who falls. Surgery to repair broken bones can take a toll. Many nursing home residents are not candidates for surgical remedy because of other medical conditions or their weakened state.
Falls can also lead to other injuries, such as brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. Unfortunately, elderly people who suffer catastrophic injuries in a fall are unlikely to recover as quickly or as fully. The aftermath of the fall often triggers complications, such as pneumonia or bed sores, that hamper recovery or adversely affect quality of life for the rest of the patient’s life.
Prevention and fall risk assessment is key
Preventing falls is the key to helping nursing home residents live a long life. Residents should be evaluated for their fall risk upon entering elder care. Certain points, such as specific medication usage or medical conditions, can indicate an increased chance that the person will fall. Balancing issues and trouble standing or walking also indicate an increased risk of falling. Residents who meet established criteria should be identified as a fall risk, with a corresponding care plan such as assistance whenever they leave the bed or go walking.
Nursing homes should have other preventative measures in place. The use of bed rails in rooms and handrails throughout the facility can go a long way in helping to prevent falls. Residents should be provided with walkers and other assistive devices if it is known that they aren’t able to walk without assistance.
Staff members are also an important line of defense in preventing falls. They can ensure that the floors are free from debris and slip hazards. They can also help residents to move around when it has been established which residents are likely to fall.
When a nursing home resident falls, medical care is usually necessary. This can mean out-of-pocket expenses for the patient. It can also mean a loss of quality of life.
Falls do happen, even in the best care facilities. But if a nursing home fall results in serious injury, the nursing home may be accountable for monetary damages if staff failed to provide adequate care and assistance, or if they created dangerous conditions.