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6 Common Safety Risks People Face in Assisted Living Facilities
When the tough decision is made to place a loved one in an assisted living facility, it’s usually because the family fears for their safety and security. Assisted living facilities are there to provide the individual with a home-like environment, but with all the help and support they need in their time of need.
Even though an assisted living facility is a far safer environment than the typical home, safety risks need to be managed and addressed. Here are six common safety risks people face in assisted living facilities and how to deal with them:
1. Slip & Fall Accidents
People can slip or fall any place at any time, and an assisted living facility is no exception to this. Unfortunately, as we age and become frailer, sustaining an injury from a fall becomes more likely. This means it’s one of the top hazards that need to be managed. Even a minor fall can lead to severe consequences like broken bones, lacerations, and, in the most extreme cases, premature death.
Slip and fall accidents are the most common type of incident among assisted living facilities. If one occurs on the premises, then the assisted living facility is likely to be found liable. You can minimize the risk of slip and fall accidents occurring by:
- Installing handrails along walkways and corridors
- Providing all residents with walking aids like canes and frames
- Providing a wheelchair for particularly frail residents
- Having staff members assist residents with walking where possible
- Using hoists and other appropriate equipment for getting residents out of bed
- Installing non-slip floor surfaces
- Ensuring all floor areas are even and that carpeted areas do not have loose or raised edges
- Keeping walkways clear of trip-hazards
- Mopping up spillages as soon as they occur
- Cordoning off freshly mopped floors until dry
- Providing safety alarms to residents to use when they require assistance
Taking these measures will minimize the risk of slip and fall accidents as much as possible. However, it will not eliminate risk. Train your staff to be vigilant and to look out for potential hazards.
2. Inadequate Safety Alert Systems
Staff can’t watch over residents at all times. Therefore, it’s essential to provide them with safety alarms that they can activate when they need assistance. Even something simple, like getting out of bed to use the restroom, can present a significant challenge. If there’s no one around to help them, the chances of an accident happening increase. Additionally, if a resident does have an accident with no one nearby, without a safety alarm, it could be a long while before someone finds them.
All too often, assisted living facilities don’t install an adequate alarm system. If a resident has an accident and can’t raise an alert for help, the facility is likely to be blamed for the incident.
An excellent quality safety alert system should include:
- Emergency pull-chains in bathrooms and restrooms
- Call buttons within reach of beds
- Call buttons in communal areas
- A personal alarm for each resident to carry with them
- Regular maintenance and safety checks to ensure the system is working correctly
- Training for all staff to ensure they respond to the alert immediately and as a priority
Those viewing an assisted living facility for suitability for their loved one should always ask for a demonstration of the alert system. Facilities that do not allow this or cannot provide one should be avoided.
3. Negligent Staff
Staff members should be an asset to the assisted living facility, not a liability. They have a duty of care to all residents. It is their responsibility to ensure residents are kept safe and secure. One of the most common safety risks in assisted living facilities is inadequately trained or unsuitable staff. To avoid this happening, you need to ensure that:
- Your hiring process is thorough and sufficient to allow you to select the best candidate
- You only accept staff with previous experience and excellent references
- You provide full orientation training for all processes, procedures, and how to use equipment properly
- You provide ongoing training to keep your staff at the highest standard
It’s also imperative to note that overworked and tired staff become less vigilant and unable to perform to standard. Having insufficient staff on each shift can lead to serious problems. If there is not enough staff, residents cannot have appropriate care.
Potential risks from negligent staff are:
- Incorrect administration of medications
- Improper care of wounds and injuries
- Resident abuse and mistreatment
- Residents left unattended and vulnerable to accidents
- Inadequate or missed meals and hydration
- Improper personal care and bathroom assistance
- Failing to alert medical services when required
- Failing to notice and remove slip and fall hazards
Negligent staff can create some serious problems in your facility. And you will be found liable if something happens on their watch. Keep your team happy and well trained to minimize this risk.
4. Obstructive Hallways
Obstructive hallways are a big culprit in causing slip and fall accidents. Residents are typically not as agile as they once were, so avoiding objects when trying to navigate the floor becomes tricky. Additionally, those that rely on canes, walkers, or wheelchairs to get around will find any obstacle on the floor a big challenge. As well as posing a fall risk, obstructive hallways may block paths entirely.
If an individual can’t get to the restroom in time or reach a chair, this can cause severe discomfort to the individual. Keeping hallways clear is, therefore, of the utmost importance for safety in assisted living. Some tips to achieve this are:
- Arrange furniture so that it does not obstruct a doorway or door from opening fully
- Ensure a wide, clear space around doorways to allow walking aids to maneuver safely
- Keep all areas free from clutter, especially walkways
- Do not allow boxes or other objects to be stacked against walkway walls
- Provide adequate storage for each resident’s personal belongings
- Teach staff to be vigilant; they should pick up or remove any fallen objects
- Provide tables in common areas for personal belongings
- Never store or place any object in an elevator
- Provide a specific area for large deliveries that is situated away from resident access
5. Accidents During Transportation
This is an often-overlooked area of safety in assisted living. Residents often need to leave the facility for various reasons. Appointments, medical needs, family visits, and more, mean that residents require a method of transportation to get them there besides the obvious risks that anyone would face when driving, transporting residents presents its own unique set of risks.
Vehicles must be fitted with the right safety equipment and be easily accessible for individuals to enter and exit the vehicle safely. External conditions, such as the weather, should also be observed closely. Icy or wet conditions present slip and fall hazards, while extremely hot weather can cause a resident to fall ill quickly.
When you need to transport residents, observe that:
- The vehicle is specifically designed for use with the residents and mobility aids
- All seatbelts are working properly and are correctly secured
- Any wheelchair-bound residents are safely secured
- All individuals can safely get in and out of the vehicle
- The driver is experienced and has a clean driving license
- The vehicle has adequate climate control
- The vehicle is well-maintained and roadworthy
- Transportation is not attempted when weather conditions are extreme
- A resident who appears unsteady or ill is not transported
If you hire a third party to take care of your transportation, then it’s still important that you observe all the above. Don’t leave it up to the third party to perform safety checks. If an accident occurs while they’re transporting residents on your behalf, you can still be found liable.
6. Inadequate Handrails
Handrails and grab bars are an essential component for assisted living facilities. They enable residents to get up and down from a seated or lying position as well as navigate or maneuver in walkways. Handrails offer an element of independence for individuals. They allow people to carry out activities alone that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. Without handrails, something as simple as using the bathroom could become a dangerous activity.
To keep your residents safe yet mobile, you should install:
- handrails and grab bars in all bathrooms and restrooms, notably in the bathing area and next to the toilet
- handrails along walkways and hallways
- grab bars next to beds so residents can sit up or exit the beds easily
- grab bars next to sloped areas and doorways with potential trip hazards, like steps
- handrails in all elevators
Also ensure that:
- All handrails and grab bars are installed at the correct heights
- They are not obstructed by furniture or other objects
- They are inspected regularly to see if they’re secure
- Any broken, loose, or wobbly rails and bars are fixed or replaced
Common safety risks in assisted living facilities can largely be avoided by taking the necessary preventative measures. However, you cannot eliminate the risk entirely. Even the highest quality facilities can be found liable for an accident or incident that occurs on the premises.
XINSURANCE Insurance for Assisted Living Facilities
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Give you and your residents the care you all deserve by protecting yourselves from liability claims. Get in touch with XINSURANCE today and see how we can help you.