Newsroom

Standing Up to Fall Prevention

Oak Park, IL (June 1, 2006) — With a goal of reducing its patients’ risk of falling and eliminating the fear of falling in everyday life, RUSH Oak Park Hospital is making strides to remove dangers for older adults and give them a greater sense of freedom.

Hospital care for all RUSH Oak Park patients includes a universal fall prevention plan, such as instructing patients to use the call light before attempting to get out of bed and to be aware of IV lines, catheter tubes and other treatment devices that they could trip on.

But earlier this year, the hospital convened a fall prevention team which started meeting in January and implementing in April a new comprehensive fall prevention plan. The project team included nursing, physical and occupational therapy and risk management representatives, among others.

Stella Hatcliffe, director of education and clinical services, is on the team. Because of the team’s work, she said, the staff now rates patients according to the Morse Fall Scale and implements increased precautions for patients who score high on the scale.

Patients are assessed and given points in a number of areas such as their history of falling; their diagnosis; mental status and ability to be mobile without assistance.

“Patients who score over 51 are considered high risk for falls,” Hatcliffe said.

Staff can choose a number of measures to ensure better care for these high-risk patients. The new policy, in part, states:

  • Patients wear a purple ID band with the words “fall precaution;”
  • Patients are re-oriented to the environment, time, person, place, as frequently as needed;
  • Hospital staff uses a gait belt around a patient they are walking with or transferring;
  • Every two hours, staff asks patients if they need to use the restroom and assist them to get to there, to the commode or provide them with a bedpan;
  • Relevant information in the patient’s nursing assessment and/or progress is documented. Other factors such as medications, cognitive function, gait and balance, as well as conditions that may contribute to patient falls are considered; and
  • Patients are placed in a room close to the nurse’s station, if possible.

“We also have more equipment and a lot of resources,” Hatcliffe said, to alert supervising staff to a potential problem.

“Bed check alarms and chair check alarms sound if a patient moves,” she said. “A lap buddy is a cushion placed around the patient (in a wheelchair) that gives support but is not a restraint. An alarm sounds if the lap buddy is pushed away.”

“We also have more equipment and a lot of resources,” Hatcliffe said, to alert supervising staff to a potential problem.

“Bed check alarms and chair check alarms sound if a patient moves,” she said. “A lap buddy is a cushion placed around the patient (in a wheelchair) that gives support but is not a restraint. An alarm sounds if the lap buddy is pushed away.”

Also, where necessary, slip mats are placed on the floor near the bed to help a patient get proper footing when getting out of bed.

RUSH Oak Park has focused its attention on fall prevention since it started in 2003 to offer the “A Matter of Balance” course to help older adults manage their fear of falling and liberate them from feeling trapped in their homes.

“Some people think if ‘If I just sit and stay home I won’t break a hip.’ But sitting still is the worst thing to do,” said Pauline Koch, RN, MSN and clinical coordinator. She has run the Boston University course since its adoption by RUSH Oak Park.

The nine-week course teaches exercises to improve students’ flexibility, strength, coordination and balance.

Representing RUSH Oak Park Hospital, Koch is leading a fall prevention subcommittee convened by the Oak Park Township Senior Services Advisory Committee in response to a call to action issued by the National Council on the Aging. The council last year launched an initiative to help reduce fall dangers for older adults.

She is excited about a survey being constructed that will be used to raise the awareness of fall prevention among Oak Park and River Forest business owners who have a high number of senior citizen customers.

“A graduate student has called all over the country to see if there is anything like this survey, and there isn’t,” Koch said. “She’s on to something.”

Contact: Jennifer Griffin,
Marketing and Communications,
708-660-3644
jennifer_s_griffin@rush.edu