November is fall prevention month. While falls can happen to anyone, the older the individual, the higher the risk becomes. In this post we share the link between medical equipment and fall prevention, and how to make sure the entire care environment—including equipment—is safe for residents.
Fall Statistics for Seniors and Older Adults
Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults? In fact, they account for 85% of injury-related hospitalizations among this age group.
What is more, over 30% of older adults who are hospitalized for a fall end up in long-term care.
Fortunately, whether the individual is living at home or in care (nursing home or long-term care facility), there are important steps to take to reduce fall risk.
Fall Prevention & Medical Equipment – How to Prevent Falls in Older Adults
The Long-Term Care Environment
Residents in long-term care can still be at risk of falls despite receiving care and help. Contributing factors include:
- Choosing the wrong equipment
- Improper operation and maintenance of equipment
- Resident’s health and medical conditions, including footwear, medications, walking/living aids
- Obstructions and other tripping hazards
- Lack of staff training
Medical equipment essential for daily living, such as hospital beds, can pose a risk for falls if not properly understood and managed.
Choosing the right equipment is the first step. Sometimes caregivers and care teams unintentionally select items that do not fit the individual’s needs or physical capabilities, which can contribute to falls.
When researching equipment, or evaluating what you have, be sure to educate yourself on the different solutions available to make sure they’re right for the individual.
Proper use of equipment is also critical to prevent falls from happening. Always check the original manufacturer’s documentation for use instructions. When in doubt, contact an experienced service provider (like SFI Medical) with expertise in your make/model of equipment.
Beds & Bed Rails:
Hospital beds are typically equipped with bed rails, or side rails. Bed rails are intended to reduce the risk of the individual falling out of bed. However, outdated or non-compliant rail designs, or rails that have not been set up properly, can lead to falls.
Make sure the rail system is not outdated, that it is assembled correctly, and that you are following the manufacturer’s operation instructions for daily use. Consider a rail compliance audit from trained professionals.
In addition, ensure other items like assist poles/grab bars near the bed are being properly used.
Mattresses with a raised edge (or an air perimeter, in the case of a mattress with an air system) can also be used to reduce fall risk. This winged edge helps prevent the person from rolling off the bed.
Bed & Chair Exit Alarms:
Bed exit alarms can also help mitigate falls, particularly for residents who require assistance getting out of bed. Once the alarm is activated, the caregiver or staff member can quickly provide assistance to the resident if they have already fallen (or attempted to get out of bed unassisted).
For seated positions, chair exit alarms allow caregivers to know when the resident has attempted to get up or has fallen from a chair.
For both types of alarms, it is essential bed exit alarms are properly configured, with any wires out of the way.
Bedside Fall Mats:
Fall mats, or crash mats, can be placed on the floor beside the resident’s bed to provide coverage in the case of a fall.
Look for a low profile with tapered edges, anti-slip top and bottom, and made from durable material.
Facility Staff & Care Team
For new staff members or those undergoing training, procedures can be overlooked which can lead to falls that could have been easily prevented.
Staff should take care to always adhere to each resident’s capabilities and health conditions. There is typically signage posted in each room above or near the bed with information such as whether the patient requires full transfer, can get up on their own but needs partial transfer, etc.
The Home Care Environment
For those living at home, either alone or with loved ones, there are many areas of the house that can increase risk of falls.
Keep the living space safe with the following steps:
- Remove clutter and other obstacles, including cords and wires, from the floor in all rooms, especially between the bedroom and bathroom
- Install support rails or grab bars in the bathroom
- Ensure the bathtub and shower has non-slip surfaces
- Make sure stairs have handrails
- Keep the exterior of the home well lit
- Prioritize comfortable, well-fitting footwear for the resident
- Promote the use of aids like a walker or cane
- Ensure the resident is comfortable asking for assistance
For more information on fall prevention for older adults, visit Fall Prevention Month Canada.
Have an equipment issue that could be putting residents at risk for falls? Contact the SFI Medical team today to schedule a service consultation.