It’s well known that fall risks increase with age. What’s generally not as well known is how pervasive the challenge can be — especially in senior living settings.
Sadly, fall-related consequences can be prohibitively expensive. In fact, such injuries among older adults account for almost $50 billion in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that’s not factoring in resulting pain and suffering. Or the resulting number of falls-related lawsuits against operators.
A new study published in the journal Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety finds that 94% of older adults are taking fall-prevention medications. Two decades ago, it was less than 60%. More troubling still is that falls now kill far more people than ever.
As a senior living operator, you should find the trending here nothing short of alarming. Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to reduce fall risks and their consequences.
Let’s start with the obvious: lighten things up:
- Make sure there is adequate lighting in bedrooms, bathrooms and hallways.
- Place a lamp within reach of the bed for residents’ middle-of-the-night needs.
- Ensure paths to light switches are clear and are not near room entrances.
- Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
Also, be sure to remove hazards that can result in injuries, or worse. Take a look around your units. It’s possible many are full of hazards. To make things safer:
- Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands away from high-traffic areas.
- Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing — or better yet, eliminate loose rugs completely.
- Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
- Repair loose, wooden floorboards and carpeting right away.
- Use nonslip mats in bathtubs or showers.
You also can nudge residents to do two things to help them avoid falls. The first is to simply keep them moving. Physical activity can go a long way toward falls prevention. Second, remind your residents to wear sensible shoes. High heels, floppy slippers and footwear with slick soles can make a fashion statement, but each also heightens fall risks. The same goes for walking around in stocking feet.
Given the realities of aging, fall risks are not going away. But as an operator, it’s important that you do everything you can to control the controllables. Your residents who avoid injury may or may not thank you. But your insurer sure will. So will your attorney. And your bottom line.