According to the Australian and New Zealand Falls Prevention society, just under a third of people over 65 years old will fall at least once a year. Fall rates are even higher for people in aged-care facilities and hospitals, making fall prevention a key focus for healthcare facilities around the country.
Falls can cause permanent disability, prolong healing times for hospital patients, and reduce quality of life. Not only does this impact individuals and their families, but it also increases the strain on the healthcare system by keeping patients in hospital beds for longer.
It’s not just the injuries caused by falls that can cause significant damage and even lead to death. Post-fall syndrome often occurs among the elderly, when people become hesitant about moving around for fear of falling again. This lack of confidence can lead to depression and isolation, as well as physical decline hastened by lack of exercise.
Carers and hospital staff face a number of challenges when caring for patients at risk of a fall. Busy schedules, emergencies, and the number of patients needing care can all take one’s attention away from the patient just long enough for them to experience a fall.
A good falls prevention program provides a clear and logical set of procedures and guidelines that help carers safely monitor and assist patients at risk of a fall. The most important element of fall prevention training is risk assessment - stopping the fall from happening in the first place.
Falls risk assessment aims and outcomes
A falls risk assessment is usually the front line of falls prevention in healthcare facilities. Falls risk assessment tools are vital in identifying people at risk of falling.
Risk assessments help to identify which patients are most at risk, the nature of the risk, and also indicate the measures taken to minimise this risk.
Common components of a falls risk assessment should include:
- The patient’s medical diagnosis and general health outlook
- Any pre-existing medical conditions
- Medications that may cause confusion or impaired judgement
- The patient’s history of falls in any setting (either at home or in hospital)
- Any gait instability or limb weakness
- Ambulatory aids needed (such as walkers, walking sticks or wheelchairs)
- Urinary incontinence or need for assisted toileting
- Previous falls agitation or loss of confidence
- Any other physical, mental or emotional factor that may negatively influence the patient’s ambulatory ability
Falls prevention training
Falls prevention training should help staff assess risk factors according to the facility’s risk assessment tool, as well as outline what to do to minimise this risk. The training should also include correct procedures to follow if a patient fall occurs.
A facility-wide policy should be employed including:
- Education programs that increase the awareness of staff responsibility for noticing, reporting and reducing potential hazards around the facility.
- Training on the proper use of safety and fall prevention equipment such as nurse call system, roll-out solutions, and low-lying beds.
- Regular surveillance of slip hazards such as floor clutter, spills, poor lighting and improper use of safety equipment.
- Clear guidelines on the monitoring and assistance of high-risk patients.
At a team level, a facility’s fall prevention training should include:
- Recognising the importance of preventing falls
- How to identify common risk factors, high risk situations and conditions
- Identifying and applying appropriate action
- Taking action following a fall incident
- Identifying actions to engage site visitors and carers
At an individual, patient-to-carer level, caregivers need to understand how to:
- Use standard risk awareness tools
- Assess patients for falls risk prior to moving them
- Stage the patient environment for safe lift off and travel
- Help the patient use assistive devices such as walking aids
- Understand how to use falls prevention safety equipment such as roll-out beds, fall risk detection alarms, and nurse call systems
- Practice safe patient handling in line with OHS guidelines
- Get help when one caregiver is not enough
- Identify the responsibilities within the post-fall protocol
Falls prevention is everyone’s responsibility
At Keystone Healthcare, we provide education and guidance on the correct use of our products. This results in better outcomes for both patients and staff alike, while also increasing the lifespan of fall safety equipment.
Our team understands that it’s easy for busy staff to overlook a feature or function that can help make their job easier as well as improving their patient’s comfort. Our in-facility training inspires your staff to improve safety and efficiency when using our equipment to deliver patient care.