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Reducing the risk of hospital falls for elderly patients

Growing older and getting frailer are an inevitable part of life. We all know somebody who has suffered a fall whilst going about their daily lives.

Of course, older people are more vulnerable to falls and 1 in 3 over 65’s who live at home with have at least 1 fall a year. In the over 75’s it is the most common cause of injury related death and is related to balance problems, muscle weakness, poor vision and long term health conditions.

The risk and effects of an elderly person suffering a fall in Hospital are then even more pronounced. When a loved one is admitted to Hospital for treatment, the last thing anyone wants is for them to suffer further injury, whilst they are already in a vulnerable state of health.

Falls within the Hospital environment has become a huge topic for discussion and improvement across many NHS Trust’s across the UK. This is not only to try and improve patient outcomes but of course, to save the NHS money.

Around 250,000 people every year suffer a fall whilst a patient in Hospital. Of these, around 25% will suffer an injury as a result. In 2012, 900 people were left with serious injuries resulting from falls in hospital and 90 sadly died.

A fall within the Hospital can lead to many problems for the elderly patient – prolonged hospitalisation, distress and pain, loss of independence, loss of mobility, and sometimes, serious injury.

Many NHS Trusts have worked hard to implement falls prevention programmes. You should expect all elderly or vulnerable patients to receive an individual risk assessment and care plan in order to minimise the risks.

There are other things that can be done on the ward to minimise risk. The Royal College of Physicians recommends that:-

  • call bells should always be within reach
  • vision should be assessed
  • medications should be reviewed and changed if appropriate
  • mobility aids should be within reach
  • blood pressure should be taken both lying down and standing up
  • patients should be assessed for dementia or delirium and such patients should have a special care plan
  • patients with continence issues should have a continence care plan
  • safe footwear should be worn
  • the immediate bedside environment should be clear from hazards.

If you have any concerns about the risks you should bring this to the attention of your treating doctor or nurse. The risks cannot be eliminated completely, but by working together, they can be greatly reduced.

If you or a family member have suffered injury after a hospital fall contact our medical negligence experts for a no obligation chat about your options.

Author: Clare Middleton