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Can hospitals prevent patient falls?

It's estimated that up to 15 percent of patients will fall while inside the hospital. In fact, one out of every 10 seniors who fall while in the hospital will die as a result.

Can hospitals do anything to prevent these falls? Yes, but it isn't easy. First, the danger has to be recognized.

Hospitals are ripe environments for falls. Intake nurses do their best to identify patients deemed to be "at risk" of a fall as soon as possible, but there are a lot of factors that can cause someone not automatically deemed a fall risk to end up falling. For example:

  • Hospitalized patients are usually quite ill and can be disoriented and unsteady due to their illness.
  • Patients may be dehydrated, which can make them weak and prone to falls.
  • Patients who are put on new medications -- or removed from old ones -- can have complications ranging from dizziness to fainting.
  • A patient can simply get tangled up in his or her tubes and bedding while trying to make it from the bed to the bathroom and back.

A fall can complicate an already serious condition -- or create one. For example, falls can start a reasonably healthy senior down a road that leads to a rapid decline in his or her mobility, mental health and general physical well-being.

Second, an effective prevention program has to be started. In order to really prevent falls, hospitals need to take a broad approach and emphasize the importance of fall protection to every staff member -- all the way down to the janitorial and housekeeping departments. Everyone can affect the viability of a fall prevention program.

Some effective measures include:

  • Medications should be reviewed and adjusted to reduce unnecessary disorienting side-effects.
  • Bed alarms and personal alarms will quickly notify the staff if a patient decides to get up without assistance.
  • Floor mats can help prevent slipping.
  • Hospital-provided slippers or socks with a tread can prevent slips on smooth floors.
  • Adjustable beds can be lowered as close to the floor as possible.

A slip and fall accident inside a hospital is often a sign of medical negligence or malpractice. You deserve fair compensation when you've been injured, so fully explore your legal options.

Source: University of New England, "Evidence-based Falls Prevention in Critical Access Hospitals," Karen B. Pearson, MLIS, MA and Andrew F Coburn, PhD, accessed Dec. 14, 2017

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