Many nursing home residents are old, frail or sick. They may suffer from muscle weakness and lack balance and coordination due to inactivity, making them more prone to falls.
Elderly residents may easily become weakened due to malnutrition or dehydration. Falls may occur because of a resident’s nutrition-related weakness or dizziness.
Failure to monitor residents’ use of prescribed medicines or administering wrong types or doses of medication can cause falls. The unauthorized use of antipsychotic medication, or “chemical restraints,” is a growing practice.
Providing wheelchairs that have faulty wheels or brakes can lead to falls. Walking aids that are loose or lack grips can also be dangerous. Patients can also fall from unstable beds.
Falls commonly occur due to poor lighting, slick floors, defective handrails and cluttered hallways and rooms.
Fall injuries can happen when residents are able to wander away on the grounds of the nursing home or into the community. Injuries can become exacerbated when falls go unaddressed.
In a 2010 survey, 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating residents, including committing violent acts against them.
Nursing home residents who are exposed to conditions that lead to falls may be scared or feel helpless to report their concerns. Staff members may not want to complain about conditions or about the misconduct of other staff members. A nursing home may never meet to assess what it is doing to prevent falls.
Provide fitness programs that help residents to increase strength, balance and flexibility.
Nursing homes should have meal plans in place that ensure that each resident’s unique dietary needs are met. This may include providing vitamin supplements.
Nursing home staff should be aware of each resident’s medication schedule and understand the effects of these drugs. Only registered nurses should administer drugs to residents.
Conduct routine inventory checks of all wheelchairs, walking equipment and beds provided to residents. Ensure outdated, out-of-maintenance equipment is never used. Make sure bed heights are properly adjusted for individual residents.
Perform routine cleaning and maintenance of all rooms, hallways and common areas within the nursing home and surrounding campus area. Provide a system in which residents and staff can report existing hazards and maintenance issues to janitors and grounds crew.
Staff members should be assigned to supervise residents, with special attention paid to high-risk residents such as those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Cameras, locks, guards and other reasonable security features should be in place.
Conduct thorough screening before hiring staff members, including criminal background checks. Provide a system for reporting abuse and neglect. Have a zero-tolerance policy towards staff members mistreating residents.
Staff should regularly meet to discussion the facility’s fall prevention program. The home should also provide an anonymous reporting system for residents and their families as well as for staff members. Administrators should promptly address all concerns raised. Concerned parties should report poor facility conditions or mistreatment of residents to proper outside authorities without delay.