When we place a loved one in a nursing home or long term care facility, we trust that their basic needs will be taken care of—that they’ll be kept well-fed, clean, healthy, and safe. Due to the unfortunate fact that most facilities are understaffed or have an excessive amount of residents, however, it’s impossible for staff members to constantly keep an eye on every resident. Falls happen in nursing homes on a daily basis and can lead to devastating health consequences.
According to 2013 data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 2.5 million older people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for fall injuries every year. Over 700,000 patients a year are hospitalized due to fall injuries. In the elderly, fall injuries commonly result in head injuries and hip fractures—both of which can lead to serious surgeries or life-threatening complications.
Despite the fact that we can’t always be there for our loved ones when they’re in a nursing home or long term care facility, there are steps we can take to ensure the facility is doing everything they can to prevent falls. Here are 5 things we can do to help prevent falls in nursing homes:
Request a Risk Assessment
As part of a resident’s health and safety evaluation, a resident’s family can request for the facility to perform what’s called a risk assessment. The resident is assessed for signs of confusion or disorientation which may lead to falls or other risks. The resident’s medications are also evaluated, along with their room and surroundings to assess if anything needs to be changed.
Insist on Yearly Eyesight Checks
After a certain age, our eyesight tends to undergo significant changes. It’s important to have your loved one’s eyesight checked every year. Proper-strength eyeglasses or contact lenses are also a must. Make sure that your loved one gradually adjusts to any major changes in prescription strength. Having to quickly adjust to a change in eyeglass strength can lead to a fall.
Insist on Strong Bones and Joints
If your loved one is able to stay mobile, recommend that strength and flexibility exercises are included in their daily routine. Exercise is crucial for senior bone health, and flexible joints can help prevent falls in numerous ways. The impact from a fall can also be greatly reduced when a resident is stronger. To help prevent osteoporosis, ensure that your loved one is also getting enough calcium and Vitamin D.
Inspect Bathroom Safety Measures
Most long term facilities utilize safe shower stalls and shower chairs, etc., but it’s a good idea to ask for an impromptu tour of the facility every now and then to make sure. Make sure the showers are wide enough to safely contain a shower chair and that they’re well-scrubbed as to avoid slippery surfaces.
Ensure Proper Lighting is in Place
A brightly lit room can help residents find their way around easier. Make sure that your loved one has easy access to their room’s light switches as well as access to a bedside lamp or light switch that’s easy to locate. Emergency lights should also be adequately in place.
Sunlight, if available, is always the best source of light. Even if the facility requests that all window blinds be shut to reduce cooling costs, request that they be opened for the majority of the morning and early afternoon. Natural sunlight is easier to see by, and can also significantly boost resident morale.
Most long term care facility directors and staff members are happy to assist family members with any questions or concerns regarding a loved one. Spend as much time as possible visiting your loved one, of course, but also get to know the staff members. Make friends with someone who works there who can keep an eye on your loved one when you’re not there. This lets you get help quickly if you should ever need it.
If, for whatever reason, you feel your loved one’s nursing home or facility is not doing everything in their power to properly care for your loved one or if you suspect elder abuse, there are legal options you should be aware of. Louisville, KY nursing home abuse lawyer Tad Thomas of Thomas Law Offices is happy to answer any questions you may have or set up an appointment to discuss these options. Call our expert personal injury attorneys to find out more.
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