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Falls prevention in hospital shows benefits

Falls prevention in hospital shows benefits as broken hips reduced

New data from the Health Quality & Safety Commission show the number of people falling in hospital and breaking their hip continues to reduce. Between September 2014 and the end of September 2017, there have been 107 fewer in-hospital falls resulting in fractured hips compared to historic trends.

The Commission’s clinical lead for the reducing harm from falls programme, Sandy Blake[1], says this trend is extremely encouraging, and testament to the commitment shown by district health boards (DHBs) and other providers to reducing harm from falls.

‘These results are important and should be celebrated because hip fracture is the most common serious fall-related injury in those over 80 years old’.

She says a fall can be devastating for older people, making them fearful of falling again, which can stop them doing the things they used to do.

‘A fall can be particularly distressing when it occurs in a care setting like a hospital. However, many can be prevented through a combination of awareness and individualised care.

‘Most falls happen when people are getting in or out of their bed or their bedside chair, or going to the bathroom, so patients need to take extra care at these times and ring the bell if they need help.’

Sandy Blake says the reduction in the number of patients falling and breaking their hip in hospital has saved around $5 million over three years.

‘This figure includes the cost of longer hospital stay, and also considers the additional cost of diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation.

‘Most importantly, every broken hip avoided gives those people an estimated extra 1.6 years of healthy life.’

She says involving patients and their families and whānau in falls risk assessments as part of the care team, when an older person enters hospital, can reduce falls.

‘Having safe footwear, an uncluttered ward, and the appropriate and safe use of bedrails and other walking equipment are also important.’

Other things hospital patients or people in aged residential care can do to help keep from losing their balance or falling over include:

- keep important items within reach, including your call button or call bell

- take your time when you get up. If you feel dizzy, weak or light-headed, call a nurse - don’t get up by yourself

- ask for help getting to the bathroom or toilet, and use the bell if you don’t feel well, or if you need assistance to return to your bed or room

- take extra care on wet or slippery floors

- watch out for any clutter or obstacles in your way, and ask for them to be moved

- use the handrails in the bathroom and hallway

- don’t use your IV pole, tray table, wheelchair, or other objects that can move to steady yourself

- use your walking aid in the way you have been shown

- wear well-fitting shoes or slippers every time you get up. If you need assistance, ask for help to put them on

- make sure your clothing is not too long or too loose - it might trip you up

- at night, turn on the light before you get out of bed, and turn on the light in the toilet.

This month is April Falls month, an annual campaign that raises awareness of the harm caused by falls, and what can be done to prevent them.

April Falls is promoted by an increasing number of health care providers around the country, including district health boards, aged residential care providers, and community care providers. Now well embedded across the sector as an annual focus on falls prevention, it will increasingly align with the Live Stronger for Longer movement supported cross agency by the Health Quality & Safety Commission, ACC and the Ministry of Health.

[1] Sandy Blake is also director of nursing patient safety and quality at Whanganui DHB

For further information

Live Stronger for Longer website

Health Quality & Safety Commission’s reducing harm from falls programme

Osteoporosis New Zealand


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