The #1 Preventable Reason Seniors Land in the ER and How We’re Solving It

Aging alone presents physical hurdles for seniors. Layered with other health conditions, this creates increased likelihood any aging adult finds themselves in the ER.

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Seniors often share that independence is important to them as they age. Not wanting to be dependent on someone for their day-to-day care or to be a burden on their loved ones, they may overestimate their ability to reach high shelves, climb steep stairs, or navigate a cluttered floor. Particularly if certain health conditions or medications complicate their balance.

Falls send millions of aging adults to the ER each year. In the U.S. , falls are the leading cause of injury death among aging adults (those 65 and older). With 50% of nursing home residents experiencing falls annually, actively planning and implementing fall prevention programs is a crucial part of long-term, rehabilitation, and memory care programs.

The ripple effect of falls on senior health. 

The pain after a serious fall can reduce mobility for seniors or leave them unsteady on their feet, increasing their risk for another fall. Even relatively minor injuries, like scrapes and bruises, leave a longer-lasting impact on senior mental health. A fear of falling and concern that their independence is waning can lead to overcautious self-imposed limitations. The fear isn’t without cause as aging adults who’ve fallen once are also at an increased risk of falling again.

Social connections and physical activity are essential to quality of life and aging, but strict limitations after a fall may lead seniors to reduce their mobility and therefore also their participation in previously enjoyed social activities. The perceived and real losses of independence and community can contribute to overall health decline.

An ounce of fall prevention is worth a pound of cure. Every long-term care, rehabilitation, and memory care facility needs to prioritize fall prevention as part of their resident safety protocols.

Senior fall risk factors.

Before we can assess fall risk factors, we need to know that there are three types of factors: physical, environmental, and behavioral. Physical factors include age-related changes like muscle weakness and balance issues. Cluttered living spaces, poor lighting, and slippery floors are among key environmental factors. Risky activities like trying to reach high shelves, navigating stairs without support, and lack of proper footwear are behavioral factors increasing the risk of falls.

While these factors can be present in homes or facilities, senior care facilities carry additional risks: inadequate staffing and poorly designed environments. Residents may find it difficult to wait for assistance and decide to transfer without the appropriate support when staffing support is inadequate for the number of residents. Layouts, types of flooring, and even the colors and patterns present in a care environment make a difference in minimizing environmental risk factors.

Assessing individual fall risk.

Many individuals will experience similar risk factors, but the importance of individual risk assessments can’t be overlooked. Each resident will have a different combination of risk factors, different levels of risk, and different intervention needs. 

It’s essential to engage all of the various care providers when assessing fall risk. Seniors’ medical care providers, therapists, and family caregivers (or other direct care providers) provide essential information about physical, environmental, and behavioral factors for a complete picture of fall risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the STEADI assessment and tools to support fall risk assessment and reduction. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also provides information and tools to support reducing the risk of falls for seniors.

At the Restoracy, we complete a fall risk evaluation and a Brief Interview for Mental Status (BIMS) assessment. Looking at each individual holistically, including their fall and fall interventions history, when assessing fall risk provides the information we need to customize a care plan that balances the safety needs and personal goals for each resident. The evaluation is reviewed quarterly (or more often if needed) so every person’s care plan is consistently and carefully updated and followed.

Creating a safe environment and reducing fall risk.

A safe environment and a reduction in fall risks starts with a team dedicated to identifying and reducing fall risk. This begins with training for our entire team – from administration to direct care providers. It’s everyone’s responsibility to monitor the environment and keep fall risk prevention a priority. 

As we help residents navigate in our homes, team members are looking for and addressing risk factors continuously. Our team proactively checks and maintains equipment and furniture and quickly addresses any concerns from residents. Looking out for and removing hazards like loose rugs and electrical cords, maintaining appropriate lighting, and checking furniture and mobility aids such as walkers, wheelchairs, and canes further reduces fall risk.

Bed alarms and bed rails were a popular intervention for fall risk mitigation in care facilities, but because of a Medicare rule change that no longer allows them, focus on fall prevention is even more essential in care settings. In large facilities designed to maximize the number of residents, a fall at the end of a long hallway with no direct visibility and no caregiver to hear a resident fall is a potential risk.

The Restoracy’s home-like setting has been intentionally designed to address safe navigation and appropriate support, but fall risk reduction in the environment is diminished if the physical health of residents isn’t a top priority. Nutrition, medication management, and physical strength, balance, and mobility are central to preserving the independence residents cherish and reducing fall risks. 

Aging adults sometimes experience a decreased sense of thirst or hunger, so close monitoring and encouragement are essential to maintain adequate energy, nutrients, and hydration. Nutrition and hydration relate closely to medication management, too. Our registered dietician, skilled nursing team, and resident physicians work together to minimize any side effects of medications that may contribute to fall risk, like dizziness and sleepiness. 

Optimizing nutrition and medication management allows residents to take advantage of building strength and balance and improving mobility with our in-house physical therapy team.

Supporting your loved ones after a fall.

Seniors seek out the Restoracy for many reasons, including rehabilitation after a fall. Our expert physical therapy team supports residents in reaching their rehab goals while in our comfortable environment Private rooms, delicious meals, and engaging social activities nurture their minds, bodies, and spirits.

Our focus on reducing the risk of falls also includes reducing the risk of injury from falls and supporting residents in recovering as quickly as possible after a fall. Restoracy’s small setting with high visibility, excellent resident to care staff ratios, and on-site therapy all support fall risk reduction, intervention implementation, and fall recovery success – all further reducing the risk of repeated falls.


Do you have questions about rehabilitation, skilled care, or memory care? We can’t wait to answer them. Give us a call or schedule a tour.


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