II. Fractured Bones From Falls
A fall can cause serious injury to a nursing home resident or hospital patient, especially elderly residents because they are susceptible to fractures, especially hip fractures. A fractured hip requires major surgery and extensive rehabilitation, and can cause permanent disability and even death in elderly residents.
Most nursing homes and hospitals take the position that the elderly are going to fall at one point or another, and that the goal is not to prevent all falls because that is impossible. Our position, however, is that we do not expect nursing homes and hospitals to prevent all falls. But what we do expect and insist upon is that preventable falls not occur. A preventable fall is one that could have been prevented had the staff provided proper care to the resident. The following are some examples of preventable falls:
Failure to provide toileting assistance. Many residents are continent and just require a little assistance from the staff getting to the bathroom. A resident typically presses a call light button to request assistance, but many times no staff person responds. This can continue for 15 to 20 minutes (or longer) until the resident, who just can’t wait any longer, attempts to walk to the bathroom unassisted and then falls. The fall could have been prevented had the staff timely provided the resident with assistance to the bathroom. Tip: On one of your visits, try entering your family member’s room without the staff knowing. Press the call light button and see how long it takes the staff to respond.
Improper transfers. Preventable falls can also occur during transfers—usually transfers from a bed to a wheelchair. These falls can occur when the aide who is assisting the patient out of bed fails to lock the wheels on the wheelchair. Or, the aide puts the bed’s side rails down and then leaves the patient unattended to do something else and the patient falls to the floor. Or, only one aide is available to transfer the patient when two aides are required and the patient falls during the transfer. These are all preventable falls.
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