According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, between 700,000 and 1 million people fall in U.S. hospitals every single year. These falls, mostly by patients who are already physically vulnerable, result in thousands of injuries and deaths. These incidents are all the more tragic because many of them – about 1/3 of hospital falls according to one study – are easily preventable.
The challenges involved in preventing hospital falls involve two main issues:
- managing and monitoring a patient’s underlying risk factors for falling, which include difficulty walking and getting in and out of bed, confusion and disorientation, medication side effects, and the need for frequent trips to the bathroom; and
- the physical design and environment of the hospital necessary for patient care and treatment
Given all that is involved in taking care of sick hospital patients, fall prevention can and often does fall by the wayside. But all the cutting-edge treatment and attentive care in the world can be undone by a patient slipping on a wet floor or tripping over a cord.
“Universal Fall Precautions”
Reducing the number of falls in a given hospital requires a multi-pronged effort by hospital staff in terms of training, culture, and action. But the cornerstone of hospital fall prevention programs are what the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) call “universal fall precautions.”
Universal fall precautions include:
- familiarizing the patient with their environment
- having the patient demonstrate call light use
- maintaining the call light within reach
- keeping the patient’s personal possessions within safe reach
- having sturdy handrails in patient bathrooms, room, and hallway
- placing the hospital bed in low position when a patient is resting in bed; raising the bed to a comfortable height when the patient is transferring out of bed
- keeping hospital bed brakes locked
- keeping wheelchair wheel locks in “locked” position when stationary
- keeping nonslip, comfortable, well-fitting footwear on the patient
- using night lights or supplemental lighting
- keeping floor surfaces clean and dry and cleaning up all spills promptly
- keeping patient care areas uncluttered
If a hospital fails to take adequate steps to prevent patient falls and a patient is injured as a result of a fall, they may be entitled to seek compensation from the hospital. If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall or trip and fall incident, whether in a hospital or elsewhere, please give Dallas personal injury attorney Robert Greening of Greening Law, P.C. a call at (972) 934-8900 or fill out our online form to arrange for your free initial consultation.