Hospitals hope wristbands will reduce patient falls

YARMOUTH — On Monday, hospitals in southwestern Nova Scotia began placing yellow wristbands on patients considered to be at high risk of falling.

The wristbands carry the words “fall risk” in large black letters and will let all health-care providers know that fall prevention cautions should be taken, said Barbara Johnson of SouthWest Health.

For more than a year now, each patient admitted to Digby General Hospital and Yarmouth Regional Hospital, as well as Roseway Hospital in Shelburne, has been assessed to help identify any fall risk.

Records show that 401 hospital patient falls were reported in 2009-10 by the three hospitals.

“The most common cause of falls is falling in liquids and it’s usually urine,” said Johnson.

She said she is unaware of any civil action pending against SouthWest Health as a result of an in-hospital fall.

All inpatients, including those admitted to mental health, addictions or rehabilitation units, will be assessed for fall risks, she said Monday.

Staff will look beyond the senior or frail segment of hospital patients, she said.

Normally, healthy people who have had surgery or have new medications could also be susceptible to falls.

Patients will be reassessed throughout their hospital stay to see if anything has changed, and when they no longer present a risk they will have their wristband removed, said Johnson. The wristbands will be left on when a patient is discharged if a high risk for falling remains.

“And there will be an offer to follow up with rehab services,” said Johnson. Someone may come to a patient’s home to see how they are progressing.

A fall injury in hospital delays recovery and results in an average 40 per cent longer hospital stay, she said. After a fall many seniors lose their independence and require a long-term care bed

“We also have a mobility team that works with hospital patients . . . to get people up out of bed and get them moving,” said Johnson.

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