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How to help prevent falls at your caregiving organization

By The Glatfelter Team on July 2, 2019

Fall prevention tips for healthcare facilities

Slips, trips and falls are risks at every business. In fact, falls are the third leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in the United States. Given the startling statistic that one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year, working with seniors increases your organization's fall exposures.

Without a fall prevention program in place, you could be putting your residents, employees, visitors, vendors and any other person who comes to your facility in danger. 

The emotional and financial costs of a fall

Slips, trips and falls can result in severe injuries, including hip fractures, broken bones, head injuries and even death. Beyond the unfortunate impacts to the client, it's important to remember that the fall alone can be costly. The average hospital cost for a fall injury is over $30,000, and the costs of treating fall injuries rise with age. ⁠

There are also possible legal ramifications of a fall. “Slip and fall” is a term used for a personal injury case in which a person slips, trips and falls, and is injured on someone else’s property. These cases usually fall under the broader category of cases known as “premises liability” claims. These incidents occur on a property (or “premises”) owned or maintained by someone else, and the owner or possessor of the property may be held legally responsible.

This doesn't even begin to consider possible reputation damage which could have a long-lasting impact on your client-base and employee recruitment. 

Caregiver retention could also be impacted by falls. Many professional caregivers already face challenges like burnout and guilt ⁠— and a fall could worsen the load. Caregivers report a significant increase in caregiver burden, fear of falling and depression after a client experiences a fall. 

It's important to take precautions including proactively developing risk management plans and selecting thorough insurance coverages to help reduce falls and help protect your organization against financial burdens that an accident could place.

What puts a client at risk for a fall?

There are both extrinsic and intrinsic risk factors that could increase a client's risk of falling. "Extrinsic" refers to external factors, for example if a floor is wet and a resident slips and falls. "Intrinsic" refers to the individual psychical/internal/psychological characteristics of each client like age, muscle and strength weakness, chronic disease and other health-related characteristics that may increase their chances of falling. 

Download free fall assessment for individual clients >>>

Extrinsic risk factors include: 
  • Potentially hazardous activities (generally related to the patient’s need to maintain their independence)
  • Clutter
  • Time of day
  • Lighting
  • Spills/wet floors
  • Loose electrical cords
  • Unsecured rugs
Accidents resulting from extrinsic risks typically happen in one of three places:
  • Parking lot and surrounding sidewalks
  • Entrances and exits
  • Indoors

A focus on extrinsic factors. How to help assess your facility's fall risks and make improvements:

To begin to lower your fall risks, your organization should take these 3 steps:
  1. Have a preventive maintenance program in place to help ensure that all areas are regularly inspected and maintained.
  2. Educate all staff members on how to identify and report potential hazards to appropriate individuals.
  3. Implement documentation and procedures to make sure unsafe conditions are reported and fixed immediately.

Here is a quick list of fall-related items to check-off during routine inspections:

On your facility's exterior, check that your:
  • Parking lot is in good condition
  • Sidewalks are level and obstruction free
  • Water drains away from sidewalks/parking areas
  • Sidewalks and parking areas are well lit
  • Changes in exterior surface levels/elevations are marked
  • Stairs and steps have non-slip surfaces
  • Stairwells are illuminated, clean and unobstructed
  • Handrails are present, tight and in good condition
  • Snow and ice is removed; surfaces treated (seasonal only)
On the inside of your facility, check that your:
  • Public areas are clean, well lit and unobstructed
  • Carpeting is tight, smooth and free of tears and rips
  • Doormats are flat, slip-resistant and clean
  • Stairwells are illuminated, clean and unobstructed
  • Handrails are present, tight and in good condition
  • Changes in interior floor level elevation are marked
  • Emergency lighting is operational

Falls are 100% preventable. It's important to evaluate your building, grounds and each client to better assess your risks and take precautions. Having a fall assessment program, developing a preventative maintenance program and training your team can help you create a safer environment and a culture of safety. 

Free Fall Prevention Management Guide



The Glatfelter Team

When this team of rockstars isn't immersed in the process of researching how to reduce the risks your organization faces, we share stories of our pets, kids and favorite pizza toppings—on the daily.

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