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With Collaboration, Falls Drop

One of the most pleasant surprises to emerge thus far from Pen Bay Healthcare’s membership in MaineHealth has been the opportunity to work with other member organizations on preventing falls and fall-related injuries among seniors.

Falls are no joke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they’re the leading cause of injury-related death in adults age 65 and older. Twenty to 30 percent of seniors who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, or head trauma, making it difficult for many of these folks to continue living independently. And the cost? A whopping $19 billion, as estimated in 2000 by the CDC.

Spurred by the grim statistics, clinicians at Quarry Hill’s Gardens nursing-care center began working closely with their counterparts throughout MaineHealth in 2009 to reduce the incidence of falls in nursing-care centers system-wide. Their efforts are paying off. Injurious falls have declined from an average of 5.42 per thousand bed days of care in the first quarter of 2009 to just 1.06 per thousand bed days in the third quarter of 2011.

Gardens manager Carmen Edwards, RN, credits a two-part strategy, developed by the workgroup, for the healthy trend. The first part calls for nurses and other caregivers to evaluate and monitor any individual who falls, investigate and record the circumstances surrounding the fall, alert our onsite physician or other attending physician, and take steps to prevent future incidents. In the second phase, caregivers complete a full assessment of the individual’s risk of falling, devise a preventive plan of care, and monitor results.

Now, workgroup members are spreading the gospel, training additional clinicians to use the strategies they’ve devised and aiming to make nursing-care communities throughout the MaineHealth network even safer for the people they serve.

It just goes to show what a little teamwork can do.