One of the biggest concerns of those who care for seniors is protecting them from falling. One in four older Americans fall every year and as people age, their risk for falls increases. Impacts of falling can be devastating and go beyond the obvious physical consequences. Even fear of falling can lead to lack of engagement in activities, which can increase feelings of isolation and result in further physical and mental decline. That’s why having strategies for effective fall prevention in assisted living is so important.

Why do older adults fall?

To make a plan for fall prevention in assisted living, staff and residents alike must first understand the factors that increase the risk of falling.  Residents may experience physical factors like muscle and bone loss, changes in vision, lack of balance, and cardiovascular issues that can increase the risk of falling. Side effects from medication, depression and lack of sleep can also make a person more likely to fall due to decreased awareness and judgment. In the assisted living facility, clutter, lack of support structures like railings, slippery or unclear surfaces, and insufficient lighting can all create an unsafe situation that increases the risk that a resident may fall.

How can falls be prevented?

Fall prevention in assisted living requires a strategic approach addressing both internal and external factors. 

Helping residents stay safe 

Facility staff and residents need to share responsibility for mitigating the health risks that lead to falls.

  • Since muscle weakness is the leading predictor of fall risk, assisted living facilities should offer exercise programs which improve strength and balance. 
  • Residents should be encouraged to use assistive devices as needed. These include glasses, hearing aids, walkers, canes, etc.
  • Wearing shoes that fit well and have slip-resistant soles is important for safety. Residents should also have their feet checked for conditions that could affect balance.
  • Residents should speak up if they are feeling unsteady or lightheaded, are experiencing changes in vision, or are having any other issues that caregivers should know about. 
  • Healthcare providers should discuss side effects of medications (like dizziness and sleepiness) with their patients, as those may increase risk of falling.

A safer environment

Creating a safe physical environment for residents is essential for fall prevention in assisted living. 

  • Have sufficient staff on duty to keep an eye on residents and notice changes in their ability to get around safely. 
  • When arranging living spaces, items like throw rugs and too much furniture should be avoided. 
  • Add grab bars in bathrooms near toilets and in showers and encourage use of handrails in stairways and hallways.
  • Make sure there is sufficient lighting throughout the facility. If someone can’t see an obstacle or change in floor surface, they can’t safely make their way around.

What resources are available to help with fall prevention?

The majority of incidents and liability claims in assisted living communities are because of resident falls. Falls are common and costly, but thankfully they are also preventable. Time, training, research and resources should be dedicated to decreasing fall risks for residents.

Learn more in our staff training DVD Reducing Resident Falls. Located in Hershey, PA, SeniorLivingU provides comprehensive educational resources for assisted living administrators and staff. Comprehensive training materials are available in many formats, including the Anytime Online Learning Portal, certificate programs, manuals and textbooks, DVDs and instant downloads. Our senior living management certificate program can provide the knowledge you need to advance your career. Have questions? The FAQ page provides answers to common questions about our assisted living education, including how to purchase educational materials. To learn more about SeniorLivingU and the services and resources we provide, contact us today.