Loved One Falling Out Of Bed In A Nursing Home? Here’s What To Do

By: Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Even with the best care, seniors can have falls – including falls from bed. So, if you have a loved one falling out of a bed in a nursing home, what can you do about it? Keep reading to learn steps you can take to address the problem… and when to take more serious action.

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There are many reasons to be concerned with a patient falling out of bed. Many nursing homes and care centers struggle with dealing with falls from bed. There are many situations that can cause a fall and lead to serious injury or even death. If you have a loved one who resides in a nursing home or care center, you’ll want to know as much as you can about fall prevention and how you can help your loved one avoid injury.

Not all nursing homes and care centers are created equal. Get to know your loved one’s staff members and main caregivers. Talk to them about your concerns and observations. The focus needs to be on prevention. The more knowledgeable staff and caregivers are, the more likely it is that your loved one will be able to avoid falling out of bed in a nursing home and becoming injured or dying from a fall.

Your loved one doesn’t have to be a statistic, by careful observation and reporting, you can prevent falls. Learn to know the warning signs and focus on prevention to help your loved one remain safe in their own environment. Open the lines of communication with your loved one and his or her caregivers and nursing staff and keep these lines open. Be honest, open, and frank in discussing your concerns and observations.

What Are Some Common Causes of Falling Out Of Bed?

Some common reasons that a patient falls out of bed may include such things as vision loss (causing them to have a misstep or not see obstacles). Hearing loss is also a reason that many may fall out of bed. Patients may not hear cautions and warnings from staff, caregivers, or family members.

Medications may cause the patient to lose their balance or it may impair their awareness. Some patients may also struggle with seizures or dementia which can also affect their judgment when they go to get out of bed. Nutrition and hydration can also play a role in falls. If a patient isn’t properly hydrated or hasn’t been eating properly they may have impaired reactions as well.

As many patients age, they lose muscle tone and thus strength. They may also slip on a throw rug or even trip over a pet. Slippers and shoes without proper tread may also be contributing factors for falls. Poor lighting can easily cause a misstep as well. It becomes more difficult to catch themselves as they begin to fall due to slowed reaction times. Some patients may also have drug or alcohol abuse situations that may make falls even more of a risk.

RELATED: Common Causes of Bedroom Falls

woman getting out of bed in a nursing home
If a fall from bed is suspected, identify potential causes and work quickly with the nursing home staff to correct the problem.

What Are Some Warning Signs Indicating A Fall From Bed?

Most patients are embarrassed that they fell. It’s important to ensure that your concerns are heard by staff and caregivers for your loved one. If you notice unexplained bruising or if your loved one seems disoriented more than normal, this could be an indicator that they may have fallen. The patient may be too embarrassed to admit that they fell or in some cases (such as dementia) they may not even realize that they fell.

Ask the Right Questions… in the Right Way

You have to be very mindful of how you inquire as to “how did you get that bruise?” or asking if they are dizzy or feeling unsteady on their feet. Listen carefully as they explain or answer your question. Are they telling you the truth? Are they avoiding eye contact? Does it sound logical or true? pay close attention to their answer and ask questions that they have to answer with more than a “yes or no”.

No one wants to admit that they fell or may have fallen if they’re embarrassed. It’s important to gain the trust of your loved one and focus on fall prevention. Sometimes it may help to share your own embarrassing moment regarding a fall that you’ve had in your own experience. The more they trust you the more likely they are to admit that they fell.

Environmental Signs of a Fall

Other indicators may be misplaced furnishings that may have been toppled or slid over to another area during a fall. Rugs that are wadded up nearby or even spilled materials such as food or water may indicate that your loved one suffered a fall. Still, other patients may refuse to use their walkers as this would be like admitting that they need help.

Look at the “scene” and decipher what happened to the best of your ability. Some situations are simply more obvious than others so you’ll have to consider every aspect of the scene to ensure that you’re getting the full story.

What Steps Can You Take To Prevent Falls From Bed?

Here are some important tips that seniors living in nursing homes can use to prevent falls:

  1. Look closely at footwear. Ensure that footwear that they’re wearing has proper tread to reduce slippage when standing or walking. Footwear should have the support that is thin enough that they won’t trip over the tread. Non-slip soles and easily adjustable ties or velcro will help to adjust the shoes for proper fit should their feet swell. Slippers and jogging shoes that have thick soles should be avoided.
  2. Strength and balance exercise. It’s important that patients continue with some strength or balance exercises as recommended by their physician. You can encourage them to exercise or even join in to help ensure that they are doing them. Tell them the benefits of such exercise and how the exercises may help to prevent falls.
  3. Look at their bedding. Getting tangled in sheets and blankets can contribute to a fall. Make sure your loved one has a properly sized blanket for nursing home use and that it doesn’t touch the floor.
  4. Always wear sensory aids. Encourage your loved one to wear their glasses or hearing aids so that they can see and hear what is going on.
  5. Use prescribed walking aids. Use their walker or cane as needed to prevent falls. Slow down by coming to a full sitting position before attempting to stand up and walk.
  6. Use handrails. If there are handrails remind your loved one to use the handrails to prevent falls. Install handrails if required.
  7. Keep a well lit path. Check lighting and use nightlights as required to help improve visibility and reduce the risk of falling.
  8. Remove trip hazards. Remove all obstacles such as throw rugs, shoes (that may not be the ones that they are wearing), and anything else that may impede their safety.
  9. Take medications as prescribed. Ensure that the patient is taking their medications properly and if there are any adverse reactions notify the staff immediately.
  10. Keep an eye on them yourself. A reader suggested volunteering at the nursing home so that you can help keep an eye on your loved one to find the cause and help prevent it.

RELATED: More Tips to Prevent Falls from Bed

Who To Talk To And What To Do If Your Concerns Aren’t Being Addressed

Start by asking staff and caregivers to help you identify the reasons that your loved one is falling. Ask them to assist you in fall prevention and ensuring the safety of your loved one. Be open and honest and as frank as possible when discussing the situation with staff and caregivers.

best way to label clothes for nursing home
When visiting your loved one in a nursing home, look for signs of falls and ask non-accusatory questions about their overall care.

Contact An Ombudsman

If staff and caregivers aren’t addressing the situation, or if you don’t feel that you’re being heard, you may need to call in an Ombudsman. This is a person who is trained in dealing with nursing home and caregiving complaints. They can help you to find a solution by working closely with staffing, caregivers, the patient, you as a family member, and any local authorities that may be required should there be an issue with the nursing home or caregiving situation.

Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

Work closely with your loved one by helping them to identify the cause of falls and help to reduce them by removing obstacles, helping them to use walkers, canes, eyeglasses, hearing aids, and other resources to ensure that they remain safe. Add in proper lighting such as night lights and other lighting that may help them to see better when they are walking.

Install proper handrails and safety bars where required. If a patient has a bar to hold onto while they are standing and sitting it may help to reduce the incidence of falling. You may also wish to change the color of flooring where there are steps or slopes so that the patient realizes that their flooring has changed.

Preventing falls can be as easy as making a few simple changes such as ensuring proper footwear and removing obstacles. It may be far more complicated for some patients. Identify the issues and address them one at a time. Always focus on prevention before a serious fall or injury happens.

Also, remember that long dresses or robes can also contribute to a fall. Avoid loose-fitting clothing, poor-fitting shoes, and wobbly railings. Ask the staff to install a bed alarm to prevent falls. Be observant and note anything that could cause a fall and find a way to address the situation before it becomes an issue.

If your loved one does begin to fall, remember that if you try to catch your loved one or stop the fall you may both be injured. Instead, gently guide their head to the floor to avoid any serious head injuries. Keep your own back as straight as possible while you’re helping them slide to the floor. Always report falls to the staff and or the caregiver that is on duty at the time of the fall. Make sure the facility has the proper device to lift an elderly person from the floor after a fall.

RELATED: Should Elderly People Practice Falling?

Wrapping Up

If you suspect a senior you love is falling out of bed in a nursing home, share your concerns with staff and caregivers and try to get your loved one to admit to it through some gentle discussion. If you suspect any broken bones or other serious injuries be sure to report it to the staff and caregivers immediately and request immediate medical attention.

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