As people age, physiological changes put them at a greater risk of falling and, all too often, the fractures and infections that may result from a fall can have dangerous consequences.
To respond to this hazard, Sterling Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center works closely with a leading provider of rehabilitation services to implement a plan designed to reduce the risk of falls among residents.
“Falls are obviously a big problem,” says Mark Johnston, Sterling’s Director of Rehabilitation. “Even if a fall is inconsequential at the beginning, it can often lead to a fear of falling – which can cause a decline in activity, reduced socialization, and eventually even muscle atrophy.”
Because of this, Sterling’s staff evaluates each resident to determine who is most at risk for falling. Johnston and his team then work proactively to ensure that high-risk residents have the support they need and that obstacles that may cause falls are removed. Even something as simple as suggesting changes to footwear can make a difference.
During physical therapy, Johnston and his team also work on exercises with these residents to increase strength and improve balance, which over time can also be effective in making sure that the residents are more confident and less likely to have a fall.
Every morning, resident care teams review any falls that occurred the previous day to prevent future problems and ensure that plans are being properly implemented to minimize fall risks going forward.
However, Sterling’s fall-prevention strategies do not stop there.
Sterling also works hard to prevent falls when patients at the facility return home from a rehabilitation stay.
“It’s a comprehensive approach that starts at the skilled facility,” Johnston explains.
Johnston works with home occupational and physical therapists to make sure the appropriate strengthening exercises continue after residents return home. Therapists conduct a safety review of the property, with an eye toward reducing clutter, confirming that there is enough lighting and ensuring that patients can easily get up and down the stairs.
Sterling also evaluates the home environment to guarantee that every patient has the necessary equipment – be it a walker, a wheelchair or handle bars in the bathroom to make showering easier – to return home safely.
Family support is crucial to a successful transition, and Sterling makes sure that families are prepared to help their loved ones move back home and are aware of how they can mitigate the risk of dangerous falls.
“I really make sure that I always have time for the resident’s family,” Johnston says. “We make sure that they are aware and that our residents have adequate family support upon discharge.”