Americans over the age of 65 are at high risk of falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 4 adults in this age group falls each year.
There are many fall risks that occur naturally for seniors, but falls are usually preventable.
Risk factors common with age
As people age, they develop muscle weakness and bone loss that increase fall risk as well as increase the likelihood of serious injury from the fall. Many common medications that seniors take can cause dizziness, weakness and balance issues. Difficulties with vision, impaired cognition, gait disturbances and incontinence can also create fall risks.
Fall risk assessment
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides a self-assessment tool to help nursing homes identify problems in their fall prevention processes and structures. The goal of the tool is to help facilities develop interventions that directly address fall risks present in their environment. Critical prevention protocols include the following:
- Individualized resident care plans that assess personal fall risk factors
- Training for nursing staff about how to assess individual fall risk
- Interventions designed to address individual risk factors
Primary and secondary prevention
Primary preventions are steps taken to address risk factors for residents who have not fallen. For example, strength and balance training, medication adjustments, mobility devices and an individualized nutrition plan can help a resident overcome many of the issues that may cause a fall.
Seniors who fall are more than twice as likely to fall again, so secondary prevention is also essential. A postfall assessment should include a health care exam and consideration of the resident’s activity, footwear, environment, vital signs, toilet use, device or restraint use and any other information from witnesses regarding the circumstances.
Because these types of interventions can prevent so many falls, it begs the question of whether any fall injury in a nursing home is excusable.