FALL PREVENTION IN HOSPITALS AND NURSING HOMES

I get a newsletter from a group called SeniorAdvice.com.

Today they had an article on Fall Prevention, and gave the following tips to preventing falls in elderly persons (I have deleted a few so this is not the complete list)

  • You can ask your doctor to perform a bone mineral density test
  • You can take part in healthy amounts of physical activity which will improve balance, muscle tone, joint flexibility, or even slow osteoporosis.
  • Test your vision and hearing since defects in sensory functioning can make you less stable overall.
  • Be aware of the side effects of your medications which can affect balance and coordination.
  • Use a cane or walking stick if needed, and always be careful when walking on unstable or slippery surfaces.
  • Wear the right footwear that has rubber soles or low heels that will help keep you stable on your feet.
  • Use your judgment – stay away from situations that could cause a fall, like a freshly washed floor, trying to reach something that is too high – you can purchase special grabbing tools to assist in tasks that involve more exertion

Clearly the article presupposes the person trying to prevent falls, has the physical and mental capacity to do so. But what about hospital and nursing home residents who cannot “use their judgment?” What things can be done to prevent falls for persons with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease?

Well here is my list of things facilities should do and often do not do:

  • Assess the person to determine whether a risk for falls
  • Assess where they are a fall risk – from stand to sit / bed mobility / wheelchair etc.
  • Have a physician assess the person for restraints (bed rails, lap buddy etc.)
  • Do not over medicate someone who is a fall risk – the medicine may make them sleepy or drowsy, but it doesn’t take away their desire to be mobile
  • If need be, have someone with the individual 24/7 – or, at least check on them every 15 minutes to make sure they are not trying to get up unassisted

Bed alarms and chair alarms do not prevent falls… They simply notify staff a fall has occurred.

If your loved one has a history of falls, please be aware how scary this can be. Falls cause deaths in thousands of Americans every year, and over 1.6 million Americans over age 65 will fall in 2010.

There are ways to prevent these falls and family members should be very involved in making sure facilities are doing all they can in Virginia.

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.