It’s likely you’ve fallen down at some point in your life. When we’re younger, it’s usually not such a big deal. But as people age, falling becomes a serious risk that can impact your entire life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, in 2019, there were 3 million separate emergency department visits due to falls. Among older adults, those visits totaled a shocking 34,000 deaths directly from falls. Furthermore, one out of every five recorded falls results in serious injuries, such as head injuries or broken bones. That makes falling the leading cause of injury for people age 65 and older.
Still think falling is no big deal?
As a nursing professional, fall prevention starts with you. Falls can happen anywhere, but they’re more likely to occur among patients in nursing homes or those who are frailer compared to others. Fall prevention in nursing homes is a key aspect of nursing care. Here’s what you should know about falling and the latest practice guidelines to help keep your patients safe.
Causes of Falls in Older Adults
Falling usually isn’t caused by a single factor; instead, falls often result from a combination of variables, each of which impacts older patients in different ways.
Some of these variables are directly related to a person’s health and age. For example, poor eyesight, declining reflexes, foot pain, and loss of muscle mass due to aging all increase a person’s risk for falls. Other health-related risk factors include:
- Cognitive problems, such as dementia or other types of cognitive impairment.
- Conditions like incontinence, which may cause an older person to try to rush to the bathroom.
- Difficulty balancing or walking steadily, even on flat surfaces.
- Living with a chronic medical condition, like heart disease or diabetes.
- Medications that cause confusion or dizziness.
Factors beyond an individual’s personal health also play a role in falling. For example, older people may continue to wear inappropriate footwear, like high heels or backless shoes, which contribute to unsteady walking. Or, there may be safety hazards like rugs or uneven steps in the general environment.
Fortunately, nursing professionals can take steps to reduce these risk factors to help keep patients safe.
Preventing Falls Among Older Populations
Fall prevention in nursing homes and other healthcare facilities is a multifaceted process that should begin whenever you admit a new patient. Each person you care for should be thoroughly evaluated for their risk for falls. If necessary, balance and gait testing can be used to better understand how a person moves in the world.
Additional guidelines suggest that nurses and other healthcare professionals should:
- Actively manage fractures and take steps to prevent bone diseases like osteoporosis.
- Encourage regular exercise to maintain muscle mass, flexibility, and strength.
- Modify the patient’s environment to remove fall hazards, such as rugs or clutter.
- Provide appropriate visual aids and footwear for each patient.
- Review each patient’s medication list to identify drugs that may increase the risk of falling.
- Talk to each patient about their fall risk, including steps they can take to stay safe.
It’s also important to let each member of the care team know when a patient is at high risk for falls. Working together to prevent falls is one of the best ways to maintain patient safety, no matter where you practice.
Learning More About Fall Prevention
Fall prevention in nursing homes and other healthcare areas isn’t something you’ll only do once. You’ll need to assess each and every patient’s risk for falls and take steps to prevent them. Continuing education is key for staying on top of the latest practice guidelines that prevent or reduce the number of falls each year.
IntelyEdu offers a variety of continuing education courses, including fall prevention, to help you practice as safely as possible. These learner-focused, on-demand courses provide relevant and in-depth information to help you succeed.
Falling is a serious matter, but you can help prevent falls among your patients. Following the latest guidelines is the best way to ensure you help keep your patients as safe as possible.
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and worked as a registered nurse in multiple specialties, including pharmaceuticals, operating room/surgery, endocrinology, and family practice. With over nine years of clinical practice experience, her unique insights into the healthcare industry help her craft compelling content that targets both healthcare consumers and clinicians.