How to Ensure Loved Ones Are Safe From Head Injuries
Written by Jeff Meyer on June 15, 2015
In a formal assessment of video footage from more than 225 falls in long-term care facilities, researchers determined that 37% of the people struck their heads during the fall. Of this percentage, more than half hit their heads on hard flooring. Of note in the research was that forward facing falls were far more likely to result in a head impact, and that the use of arms to break a fall was relatively ineffective.
The facts that these statistics reveal are deeply disturbing, revealing how easily someone in long-term care can face major injury during a fall, but particularly one to the head. Though adults can attempt to block their fall by putting up the hands or the arms, the observations made by those doing the study proved that it was difficult for victims to halt their downward movement.
The Best Suggestions
The findings, revealed in the Canadian Medical Association Journal establish some cold, hard facts. However, they also offer some guidance to those with loved ones in long-term care or at risk for head injuries due to a fall. For instance, some of the recommendations from the researchers included:
- Improving upper-limb, neck, and trunk muscles through resistance training.
- Creating safer environments, including the use of a “flooring sub-layer” soft enough to cushion against injury.
Additionally, the CDC in the United States has made pointed efforts at discovering the common causes for falls that result in head injury, and they add the following suggestions:
- Staff education programs meant to reduce risk factors and improve prevention strategies.
- Changes in the environment to ensure safer movement (i.e. grab bars, lower bed heights, full rails in all hallways).
- Ensuring that wet floors, low lighting, and other such hazards are eliminated.
- Reviewing medications to cut fall risk factors.
- Teaching people with cognitive impairment behavior strategies to help them avoid risky situations.
For many people in long-term care or nursing homes, a common method for reducing the risks of falls is “restraint”. This is seen several ways, but as the CDC has made clear, “Using restraints does not lower the risk of falls or fall injuries.” In fact, says the organization, the use of restraint can worsen issues.
For example, they note that restraints increase the risk of fall-related injury and death, they cause muscle weakness by limiting mobility and physical function, and the outmoded design of bed rails can cause direct injury as well.
Insuring Your Loved Ones Are Safe
Whether your loved one is in a long-term care facility, nursing home, or still in their own home, there are ways to reduce the risks of their falling and sustaining a head injury. The first is to be aware of their condition and whether or not they are at risk for such scenarios.
The loved one who is stable when on their feet may still fall if they have health conditions or medications that can make them light-headed or off balance. Awareness of the risks is an effective first step.
It is entirely impossible to insure that a loved one will not fall or sustain a head injury. However, repeated falls, and signs of restraint must result in your taking steps to bring the issue to an end. If you discover that your loved one has fallen, struck their head, or is being restrained in order to prevent them from being a risk, it is an indication of nursing home abuse.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with a lawyer and discuss this matter. There is legal recourse, and you will want to take all appropriate action.
CDC.gov. Older Adult Falls. http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/nursing.html
Consumer.healthday.com. Head Injuries… http://consumer.healthday.com/head-and-neck-information-17/head-injury-news-344/head-injuries-common-in-nursing-home-falls-study-680804.html