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Advice For Preventing Falls In Care Homes

Falls are common among older people and can lead to distress, anxiety and loss of independence. Figures from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggest that older people living in a care home are three times more likely to experience a fall than those living at home. This is because many residents have long-term medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, stroke, arthritis and dementia which can increase the risk of falling. Falls can have serious consequences, so it is vital to take preventive measures.

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Lighting

Poor lighting can increase the chance of a fall, so to improve visibility, dark corners should be well lit and spotlights over the shower and bath are imperative. Flush fitting wall and ceiling lights in corridors can reduce fear in those with dementia, and motion-activated lights can aid vision.

Care home advice suggests that ambient lights should harmonise with residents’ body clocks, emitting soothing colour tones throughout the day. To prevent glare affecting sight, bulbs should be concealed from direct view and blinds installed. LED lights can be used for reading, cooking and eating, and bright pendant lighting creates a restful atmosphere in care home dining rooms.

Non-slip mats

Anti-slip underlay for rugs is available in the form of stick-on grips and non-slip tape. Some mats have sensors to register a fall and alert the nursing home care staff.

Most falls happen in the bathroom, where water can be a slip hazard, so it makes sense to take precautions. Bath and shower mats can improve comfort, traction and safety. Suction caps on the mats reduce the risk of injury, and those with drainage holes reduce the risk of mould forming while allowing air to circulate and spills to drain away.

Shoes

To avoid falling, it is important for older people to replace worn out shoes and choose well-fitting footwear that is comfortable and holds feet firmly in place. Older people often suffer from foot problems including plantar fasciitis, gout, bunions, corns, ingrown toenails, clawing of the toes and heel spurs, so a podiatrist visit is recommended.

Slippers are often implicated in falls as they encourage people to shuffle. Instead, a pair of running shoes with shock absorption is a better option. Straps, buckles and Velcro fastenings give more support and comfort than slip-ons.

Removing clutter

Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can lead to hazardous clutter building up in the sufferer’s environment, and residents who are hoarders should be encouraged to rationalise their possessions. Halls, landings and stairs should be kept clear. Loose rugs in bedrooms should be removed or secured with grips, while electric wires can be tidied away under rubber cable covers.

Eye tests

Sight disorders which can cause older people to become shaky on their feet include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, corneal disease, uveitis and diabetic retinopathy. Regular care home visits by opticians are essential, since early detection can be vital in the successful treatment of some diseases.

Eye tests in a care home for older people typically consist of a lettered eye chart (visual acuity test), pupil dilation drops to view the retina, and an ‘air puff’ test to measure fluid pressure inside the eye. A practitioner will be able to recommend measures to improve sight, wellbeing and quality of life.

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