How to Improve Elderly Fall Prevention in Assisted Living Facilities

woman helping man step up on step

One of the most significant challenges assisted living facilities face is the prevention of elderly falls. Although falls can be highly preventable, they continue to be the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, 25% of Americans over age 65 fall each year, resulting in about 30,000 deaths per year. Individuals who survive their falls are often left to manage serious injuries that limit their mobility and reduce their quality of life. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of falls will increase as the U.S. population ages. The CDC projects 52 million falls among a projected 73 million older adults by 2030.

It is more important than ever for assisted living professionals to protect their residents from dangerous falls. According to the National Library of Medicine, falls among the elderly are likely to reach epidemic proportions, consuming a considerable amount of healthcare resources. Fortunately, many falls can be prevented. Implementing a fall prevention plan in assisted living facilities can help improve the health and well-being of their residents.

How Do Falls Affect the Elderly?

Falls can have a devastating effect on individuals. A fall may result in the following: 

  • Loss of independence
  • Chronic pain
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Reduced confidence
  • Increased fear of falling

A single fall can be life-altering for an elderly individual. Due to the aging of the body, fractures and sprains may take much longer to heal for an elderly individual. 

Falls can also be emotionally devastating for the individual. Falls can limit their independence, causing them to feel less confident and feel more restricted in the assisted living facility. 

Not only will implementing a fall prevention plan protect the health and safety of your residents, but it will also protect your facility’s reputation. If numerous falls are reported within an assisted living facility, potential residents may look elsewhere for a safer facility to live in.

Why Are Falls Common Among the Elderly?

gait training with obstacles

The single best predictor for falls is a previous fall. Besides that, a range of factors, including the medication an individual takes and the activities they participate in can play a role in elderly falls. 

Falls are becoming increasingly common in assisted living facilities because residents can no longer perform activities of daily living independently. Many factors can contribute to an individual’s risk of falling, including:

  • Chronic conditions: arthritis, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, incontinence, and dementia can contribute to falls among the elderly population
  • Fear and Movement Challenges: Many elderly individuals develop a fear of falling, even if they have not fallen before. They may limit their activities, leading to stiff joints and weak muscles. 
  • Vision and Hearing Loss
  • Blood Pressure: individuals with fluctuating blood pressure may experience dizziness when they stand, which can increase their risk of falling. 
  • Medications: Some medications can reduce alertness and responsiveness, making some individuals more prone to falling. 
  • Environmental Factors: Dim lighting, slippery surfaces, uneven floors, loose rugs, and overcrowded living spaces are all examples of environmental hazards that increase the risk of falling.

How Can You Calculate an Individual’s Fall Risk?

Fall risk assessments can be conducted for every resident. Conducting these tests will help facilities identify strategies to limit falls and enhance independence. Healthcare practitioners should conduct numerous fall risks tests, including: 

  • Timed Up and Go (TUG) Test: The Tug test assesses the amount of time it takes the resident to stand from a seated position and then walk ten feet while moving at their normal pace. If it takes more than 12 seconds to complete this, the resident has a higher risk of falling. 
  • 30-Second Chair Stand Test: This test counts how many times a person can stand from a seated position without using their hands for support in 30 seconds. A low score indicates a fall risk. 
  • 4-Stage Balance Test: This test measures a person’s ability to hold four challenging balance positions for at least ten seconds each. If the resident cannot hold the final stance for more than 10 seconds, they have a higher risk of falling. 
  • Orthostatic Blood Pressure Test: This blood pressure test identifies orthostatic hypotension, a type of blood pressure that drops suddenly when an individual stands, which could cause the resident to fall. 
  • Allen Cognitive Screen: The individual is asked to stitch three increasingly difficult stitches through pre-punched holes in a piece of leather. This test assesses the risk of falls related to functional cognition. 

Physicians, nurses, and therapists may all have a part to play in this assessment process. Creating personalized fall prevention plans for a resident will ensure your assisted living facility is taking the appropriate measures to prevent falls. 

What Interventions Help Reduce Falls from Occurring? 

There is no way to completely prevent falls. However, numerous interventions can help reduce the likelihood that a fall will occur. Several fall policies must be defined, including: 

  • By whom, when and how risk assessments are performed
  • Best practices for reporting falls in assisted living facilities
  • How to report concerns about a resident’s fall risk
  • Preventative measures that need to be taken for all residents.
  • What to do if a resident falls

Implementing the following safety initiatives will help protect residents from falling. Assisted living professionals should: 

  • Inspect the Environment Regularly: Routinely check for slippery surfaces, loose rugs, poor lighting, and more to reduce the risk of an accidental fall. 
  • Monitor Residents’ Medications: Residents should receive regular eye exams and hearing tests to determine if any additional interventions are needed. Ensure to monitor the resident’s medication, especially if it can increase the risk of falls.
  • Implement Exercise Programs: Senior exercise programs can help improve agility, strength, balance, and coordination. Exercise improves overall health and well-being.

How Can The Solo-Step Help My Residents?

A senior patient practices stepping up on a small box

The Solo-Step Overhead Track and Harness System is a ceiling-mounted track system that protects individuals from falling while walking or exercising. Implementing a Solo-Step in your facility will allow your patients to: 

  • Eliminate the fear of falling
  • Increase their confidence
  • Reduce injuries resulting from falls
  • Gain strength, agility, coordination & balance more efficiently and effectively
  • Safely work with other exercise equipment

If you would like to learn more about the Solo-Step Safety Overhead System and the benefits it can offer your facility, click the button below!