An important issue for seniors who have been released from the hospital is preventing falls, according to a new study. The study found that a large percentage of cases where seniors end up back in the hospital is due to a fall. During the immediate post hospitalization period of thirty days, recently released seniors need acute monitoring to prevent falls and re-hospitalization.
Moving the patient out of the hospital
The study, coauthored by Geoffrey Hoffman from the University of Michigan School of Nursing, and featured in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Open Network, followed over 8.3 million patients who had been discharged from a hospital between 2013-2014. Around 14% of the patients were re-hospitalized within 30 days of release.
5% of those patients were readmitted due to falls, the third-leading cause, behind blood poisoning from bacteria and heart failure. Of the three, falling should be the easiest to prevent, if hospital staff would make it a priority.
Hospitals are very careful about falls while the patient is there, but they need to have a better transition mechanism in place to keep patients from falling once they return home. The authors of the study suggest that hospital staff is very careful about preventing inpatient falls because Medicare will withhold a portion of payment due to a fall. This leads the staff to curtail mobility of patients most at risk of a fall. However, this may cause an increase in falls outside of the hospital when the patient has to learn how to mobilize without the assistance of medical staff.
However, hospitals also get penalized from Medicare if there is a re-admission, so many hospitals have programs set up to prevent readmissions from other medical developments. The authors of this study recommend that they look into developing programs that help seniors avoid falls during post hospitalization care as well.
Options for fall prevention during post hospitalization care
What are some of the recommendations for hospitals to help decrease the rate of readmission due to falls?
- Transitional stay at a post hospitalization facility. If the patient can spend time in a facility before he goes home, the staff can help him the physical and occupational therapy to regain balance and strength. Usually the patient is sent home from the post hospitalization care facility once he is more capable of maintaining himself.
- There are medications that help patients prone to dizziness that can help them avoid falling.
- A social worker or case manager can meet with the patient and her family before discharge to discuss and recommend different options for home safety, including the installation of rails along walls and chairlifts for staircases.
Tamara Konetzka of the University of Chicago, who researches patient safety, told Reuters Health, “Falls are often the initial trigger for a trajectory of decline among older adults – a trajectory including functional limitations, multiple hospitalizations, and long-term nursing home use. Reducing falls may thus have much broader implications for health outcomes.”
At the Alameda Center for Rehabilitation in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, we offer excellent services to help seniors with post hospitalization care. Our trained and experienced doctors, therapists, nurses and staff members are warm and dedicated to your quick recovery.