Falls: Psychological Impact and Prevention Methods

According to the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging, approximately half of nursing home residents experience falls each year. Because falls are such a common accident, it is important that nursing homes understand how to handle the situation immediately after a fall, and the best ways to prevent falls. An article by the Assisted Living Column emphasizes that falls not only cause physical injury, but also psychological damage that may lead to more falls in the future. The article also stresses the importance of caregivers at nursing homes to be educated about the nature and impact of falls.

The psychological impact of falls is important as it almost always leads to more falls. After falling once, older adults become fearful of falling again, and so engage in less physical activity. This reduction of physical activity results in reduced mobility, which is a risk factor for a second fall. In a long-term residential facility such as a nursing home where residents are unfortunately at a risk of experiencing falls, staff should be trained on preventative measures.

The article emphasizes the importance of proper prevention methods. The staff at the nursing home should be aware of all the risk factors and work to eliminate as many of these risk factors as possible. Many of the risk factors for falls are environmental factors; the floor may be too smooth or slippery, rooms and hallways may have inadequate lighting, or furniture placement might be dangerous. All of these factors are things that can be easily fixed with an observant and knowledgeable staff. Unfortunately, a problem in many nursing homes is that the nurses often give a lack of direct care. Direct care involves physical and psychological treatment of the patients, while indirect care mostly involves administrative tasks. If there is a lack of direct care for the residents, it becomes increasingly difficult for staff to take notice of the environmental hazards that the nursing home may have.

Another major risk factor is the type and amount of medication that the patient is on. A study done by the Yale FICSIT (Frailty and Injuries: Cooperative Studies of Intervention Techniques) found that those who were on psychoactive medications were more likely to experience a fall due to the medication’s side effects. Unfortunately, psychoactive drugs are one of the most frequently used drugs in nursing homes. Nursing homes often find it more convenient to use psychoactive drugs to prevent episodes of agitation. However, rather than using psychoactive drugs, nursing homes should provide more direct care and should not be using chemical restraints to subdue their residents as this is a direct violation of the Patients’ Bill of Rights.

When choosing a nursing home, it is important to ensure that the staff is trained to both prevent falls and to remedy falls should they occur. If your loved one resides in a nursing home and has experienced a fall due to the lack of proper prevention methods, neglect, or the use of chemical restraints, please contact us today to see how we can help.