Reducing Risky Slips and Avoiding Accidents in Long-Term Care Homes

People often wonder what the differences are between long-term care homes and nursing homes. In short, they’re essentially the same concept: places where elderly people living with chronic health problems or pain can live for support and care. Long-term care homes are especially important for elder people who have trouble performing everyday activities. However, there are different types of long-term care homes available. From assisted living communities, to care homes for people suffering with dementia, certain facilities will provide different spectrums of care depending on their staff, resources, price and specialization.

Despite many issues that can arise as one gets older, one of the biggest problems that seniors face as they get older is an increased loss of balance. This can lead to slips and falls that can cause injury or death; particularly when the person who falls is very frail. What can long-term care homes do to reduce the prevalence of slips and falls? How do they keep in mind a safe environment that reduces slips and falls?

Environment Matters

Using the correct furniture can go a long way in preventing falls in long-term care homes. How so? An obvious example is beds that are high off the floor. These types of designs can increase falling from a height that can cause injury. The placement of furniture can also be an issue. Cluttered environments increase the risk of tripping. This means that minimalist designs in care homes could help to reduce accidents, as well.

More specialized interventions to accidents can include bed alarms, which can alert staff when an accident has taken place, as well as grab bars or railings, which can allow residents to support themselves if they feel they are about to fall. Specially designed non-slip floor mats and shoes are also crucial in reducing accidental slips. Ensuring that the floors are always dry is also incredibly important as a wet floor can cause an accident without any warning.

Cross-Canada Differences

There are various types of long-term care facilities across Canada. These homes vary from province to province, but generally there are four categories. Active adult communities are where active adults aged 55+ live in all-in-one communities, while independent living communities offer a level of care that active adult communities don’t always have. This means extra staff on hand to organize social activities, and the ability to provide some additional assistance and monitoring. Third, assisted living communities are catered to seniors who need some physical assistance, and often have nursing or medical staff on site. Lastly, Alzheimer’s and dementia care communities also exist for residents who require attentive, specialized care that the other three categories cannot provide to the same dedicated level.

Also, the different types of communities can be funded in different ways. Long-term care communities can be funded privately, while nonprofit homes may be funded by religious organisations, or even government — such as federal, provincial, regional or municipal. Different provinces show distinct differences in how long-term care homes are funded. For example, in the Atlantic region, 40% of long-term care homes are for-profit, while 22% are government funded. In Ontario, just 17% are for-profit, while 46% are government-funded. This difference in funding across provinces illustrate that disparity in care across types of facilities does exist. Despite the best prevention efforts, or more available funding, falls are still going to happen to elderly individuals. You can only be so careful. So, what is the best way to assess and mitigate falls?

Assessing the Future

A risk assessment and mitigation program is a good way for long-term care centres to ensure that their residents are being protected to the best of their ability. Using a person-centred approach, a good risk assessment should determine a resident’s exposure to harmful situations, as well as develop a plan to prevent such exposure, before — or quickly after — they occur. Risk assessment should involve developing specific policies that outline roles and responsibilities of staff in these scenarios. It should also develop a way to determine potential harm-causing situations, assess the likelihood, and monitor the situation.

While we can’t be certain if we can remove all slips and falls in long-term care homes, taking precautions is going to be the best possible option to reduce accidents. This can include furniture and assistive equipment that is designed to stop falls from happening, while also having a robust risk assessment program up the probability of a resident injury being avoided. Are long-term care centres ready to avoid an easy accident? It may require a dedicated staff, a premonition for dangerous environments and the right policies in place, but with the right attention, furniture and layout, it could also be a problem we can put behind us with the right solutions.