Legal Nurse Consulting News: Falls Change Lives
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Millions of Americans fall on a daily basis. If someone at the ages of 65 and older falls, their chances of living a normal lifestyle is threatened. A simple fall can cause a change in their physical ability, mental ability or even their ability to live independently. The incidence of falls increases with age and varies according to living situation. A rate of 30-40% of persons age 65 or older who live at home in the community fall at least once a year. The numbers increase to 50% of persons living in long-term care, and increase to 60% of persons with a history of previous fall within the same year.Most falls result in some type of soft tissue injury, a bruise or some type of scrape. Out of all falls that occur, 10-15% result in a fracture. Falls are also associated with a decline in daily living activities, a common result of nursing home placement and increased use of medical services. Those persons who suffer from one fall experience a decline in basic activities of living. Persons that experience two or more noninjurious falls have a decline in social activities, and one injurious fall results in a decline in physical status.Complications resulting from falls are the leading cause of death from injury in men and woman older than age 65. Of those elderly men and women, 8% go to the Emergency Room with a fall related injury. One third of those admitted stay in the hospital for an average of eight days. It has been established that the lifetime cost of fall related injuries for persons over age 65 is $12.6 billion.Falls have become such a challenge in health care today that a national committee has been formed to protect patients from falls and injuries, and to ensure a safe environment. The committee was formed in 2006 and is called The National Patient Safety Goal Committee. The committee has set up guidelines that begin with primary care physicians doing a fall screen at every office visit. Any falls should be considered a reason to investigate its cause. We as nurses are also impacted by the committee standards. All hospitals are currently required by The Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation (JCAHO) to have not only a fall assessment plan but a fall reduction plan. This plan not only requires nurses to assess and reassess fall potential in clients, but it requires that medications and their effects be taken into consideration with the assessments.As the health care industry changes almost daily, we as nurses assume more responsibility in our daily practice. We are not only responsible for caring for the patient in the hospital, we are assisting with the evaluation of the elderly persons lifestyle and whether they have the ability to maintain their independence.