Focus on falls prevention pays off for home
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 — Deron Hamel
When Country Terrace recently did an audit on the number of falls at the Komoka long-term care home, team members were surprised to see how well their many falls-prevention strategies are working.
The home reduced the number of falls from 412 in 2012 to 286 in 2013, an improvement of 30 per cent, and team members are hoping these numbers continue to decline.
Registered practical nurse (RPN) Brenda Kumagai is one of the home’s falls-prevention champions. She cites Country Terrace’s physiotherapy program, exercise programs, toileting regimens, family education and installation of proper lighting as contributing factors to the success.
Physiotherapy and exercise programs help enhance mobility. Assisting residents with regular toileting helps decrease the risk of a person trying to stand up on their own to make their way to the washroom. Making sure areas are well lit helps people see where they’re going.
Reducing restraints is perhaps the greatest challenge long-term care homes face in the effort to reduce falls. Restraints, such as wheelchair seat belts or bed rails, can cause people — especially those with cognitive impairment — to want to get beyond the barriers, putting themselves at risk of falling in the process.
However, many family members insist their loved ones have restraints. This is where team members like Kumagai play an important role educating families about the dangers of restraints. Often, family members change their minds about having their loved ones’ wheelchairs or beds equipped with such devices once they learn about the risks they pose.
Scrutiny has also played a strong part in reducing falls at Country Terrace, says Kumagai. Staff members are made aware of residents who are at high risk of falling and these residents are closely watched and preventative measures, such as removing nearby clutter, are taken.
“We also look at patterns,” Kumagai tells the OMNIway. “For instance, in the evening, people may have more falls, so we will look at ways to protect them more.”
Kumagai conducts quarterly assessments on residents to examine their falls history, medications and safety devices.
Falls prevention is a major area of focus for Canadian long-term care homes. Falls pose serious health risks to seniors, and Health Canada estimates falls cost the Canadian health-care system more than $2 billion annually.
Teamwork has also played a crucial role in reducing falls at Country Terrace, Kumagai says. Front-line staff and the physiotherapy team meet monthly to discuss falls that have occurred and to develop interventions to prevent reoccurrence.
“We work well together as a team,” the RPN says.
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