Help your client prevent falls in the home with these best practice tips

Aged Care, Care Workers July 9, 2019

Independent support workers on the Mable platform who have experience working in an aged care setting will understand the importance of falls prevention. If you’re new to working with clients who are ageing, it’s important to be aware of strategies to help them to prevent falls in the home. We investigate why it’s so important and how you can help to ensure your client’s wellbeing by incorporating best practice falls prevention in any domestic support you provide.

Great customer service can have a huge impact on your success as an independent support worker. In aged care, part of providing a great service is demonstrating a commitment to the overall health and wellbeing of your client. Even if you’re engaged by your client to provide social support, or to help out with a specific task like meal preparation, being aware and vigilant about the risks of falls is important as part of your duty of care. 

Why is falls prevention so important?

  • According to the Australian & New Zealand falls prevention society, 30% of adults aged 65 and over will experience a fall at least once a year.
  • For people who are ageing, falls can be a life-changing event, resulting in permanent disability or hospitalisation. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation in people over 65. 
  • Falls also account for 40% of injury-related deaths in older people.
  • Recovery for older people is very slow, and many do not fully recover – particularly in the case of major injuries such as hip fractures. 
  • The psychological impact can be just as great, with increased anxiety for many older Australians a common consequence of a fall.

Why do older people fall so frequently?

According to Health Direct, the most common reasons for accidentally falling or slipping for older adults are related to their home environment;

  • wet or recently polished floors, such as in a bathroom;
  • dim lighting;
  • rugs or carpets that are not properly secured;
  • reaching for storage areas, such as cupboards; and,
  • stairs.

There are also a range of health factors that can contribute. Normal changes to our bodies as we age, such as deterioration of sight and muscle weakness can make falls more likely. Chronic health conditions such as low blood pressure can also cause dizziness and a range of conditions such as Parkinson’s can impact balance. Certain medications can also cause dizziness or light-headedness, and lifestyle factors like poor sleep, diet or inactivity in general can make it more likely that someone will suffer a fall.

Do your part to prevent client falls around the home

As reported in The Conversation, about 44 per cent of falls happen inside the home. Despite these figures, falls are preventable, and there are some things that you can do to help your clients create a safe home. Familiarise yourself with this checklist so you can keep a watchful eye on your client’s environment each time you visit. 

  • Suggest adjustments to furniture arrangements to create clear access paths.
  • Ensure any rugs or carpets are flat on the ground – and suggest the use of double-sided tape to secure them.
  • Ensure chords are not positioned across walking routes and remove any unnecessary clutter on the floor.
  • If there are stairs in the home, are they all secure? Is there an adequate and secure handrail? Is the lighting bright enough, and can it be turned on/off from both the top and bottom of the stairs? 
  • Review the arrangement of items in the kitchen and bathroom to ensure frequently-used items easy to reach.
  • Help your client to avoid using a step-stool – and if one is required, ensure it has a bar to hold on to. 
  • Does the bathroom require the addition of a handrail for appropriate support to get in and out of the shower or on and off the toilet? 
  • Check over the bathroom floors and surfaces to ensure they’re not wet and suggest a rubber mat or anti-slip strips provide greater security.
  • In the bedroom, suggest the use of a night light to provide greater security in the evening – and ensure all lamps are easy to access from bed.

If your clients are concerned about falls, perhaps they could consider an alarm device that could be worn at all times. Easy access to a mobile phone can also provide greater peace of mind that they will be able to call for help in the case of a fall. 

Health and lifestyle factors that can help prevent falls

When it comes to preventing accidents, lifestyle changes can have a big impact for your clients. As part of your support work, can you help them to take small steps to ensure they remain active, improve their balance and muscle mass.

Management of chronic health conditions can also play a role in preventing falls. Make sure you’re aware of your client’s needs in this regard and how you can support them. This could include ensuring they’re eating regular, balanced meals, or for support workers and nurses with medication management qualifications, helping them to understand the side effects of the medications they are taking. Encourage those you support to discuss with their doctor possible risks and strategies to avoid falls.

The ANZ Falls prevention society has created a series of guidelines designed for different audiences, including nurses and support staff working in a community setting. Brush up on your knowledge so you can help your client create a safe spaces at home.

Find out more about becoming an independent support worker working directly with clients in your community. Whether you’re looking for flexible and rewarding work in your community or your next career move, Mable makes it easy for you to connect with clients you click with.