The problem of falls never really goes away. Your residents’ health is constantly changing, and it’s your job as their caregiver to make sure they stay safe at every stage of their health journey, no matter how rapid the change. Fall prevention isn’t always easy because the human body can be unpredictable, but there are still a few practices clinicians can adopt to keep a close eye on the fall risk in their communities!
Encourage a weight bearing exercise routine
Promoting healthy, safe exercise to residents in your community will bring a myriad of benefits, mentally as well as physically. Encourage your residents to talk with their physician about seeing a physical therapist. Their therapist can recommend weight bearing exercises that promote balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination which will ultimately be the difference in your resident’s fall risk. Higher mobility will not only keep them safe, but confident as well.
Make sure your residents have sturdy footwear
As simple as it sounds, a good pair of shoes will affect how well your resident can move around, or catch themselves if a fall happens. Encourage your residents to find shoes with nonskid soles, and to avoid walking in their socks or slippers. If they prefer slippers because of how easy they are to put on, recommend a pair with a sturdy sole made of rubber or silicon so that they will still have traction. They can still throw on their slippers, for example, in the middle of the night for a bathroom break without the risk of slipping on water, the floor, or anything else that will cause them to lose traction.
Do a walk-through safety assessment of their living space
There are a few ways you can fall-proof the resident’s room or living space. One factor that can often be overlooked is lighting. Try increasing the light wherever possible. If they have a staircase they use regularly, make sure the lighting is especially good at the top and bottom of the stairs. Also, ensuring that lighting is readily accessible if the resident gets up in the middle of the night will keep them safe when they may already be groggy. Installing grab bars in the shower, bathtub, and near the toilet can be incredibly helpful as well. If the resident uses the stairs in any way, installing a rail on both sides of the stairwell will keep them secure. Lastly, make sure the floors are clutter free, particularly in high traffic areas. If possible, eliminate any small rugs or put double-sided tape on the bottom of the rugs to keep them stationary.
Be mindful of medications and side effects
Keep an eye on your residents that are taking medications that may cause dizziness or drowsiness. Make sure they are closely monitored and have ready help when moving place to place. When an older adult is taking four or more medicines at one time, they are said to be at a higher fall risk (1). Make sure they are given extra attention to prevent any accidents.
Implement VSTBalance, a predictive fall risk assessment system
The truth is, you don’t have to be in the dark about your residents’ fall risk. You may be feeling overwhelmed by the number of residents in your community that you suspect may fall, but are unsure how likely they really are to fall. If that’s the case, you can implement a fall risk assessment system, such as VSTBalance, that will help you determine risk at an individual level as well as the overall levels of your community as a whole. Beyond that, your residents can keep track of their own mobility and progress over time using the VSTWell app, which will also give them individualized exercises they can practice on their own. A system like this will keep you in the know, and also benefit the overall health of your community.
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