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What you should know about falls in hospitals

There are many circumstances that may cause a patient in a Washington hospital to fall, and the result is often serious injuries. In fact, according to the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, 30 to 35 percent of the hundreds of thousands of people who fall in hospitals each year sustain serious injuries, including brain injuries and broken bones. The average cost for the extended hospital stay after a fall is over $14,000.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services notes that falls are never events, meaning that they can be prevented. Experts have developed resources that are proven to reduce the likelihood of falls. In institutions where fall prevention practices are applied, 35 percent fewer patients fell, and those who did fall were much less likely to be injured.

Hospitals & Health Networks states that patients fall for a number of reasons, but there are some primary factors that hospitals can address in order to improve safety, beginning with education. Not only do staff members need to be aware of fall risks, patients and their family members should also be aware of hazards. This could include providing information and then posting signs to remind patients to call for nurses rather than attempting to leave their beds on their own.

Each patient should be assessed for fall risk at the beginning of the hospital stay because medication, illnesses and injuries often affect balance and strength. Getting out of bed can be extremely dangerous. However, some patients are not comfortable calling for help going to the bathroom. Even when patients do use the call light, if nurses are busy or the alert is not functioning correctly, they may give up and try to cross the room on their own. In one facility, the team addressed this by changing the schedules for patients receiving diuretics and providing physical therapy to patients who had mobility issues.