HOW TO IMPLEMENT A FALL PREVENTION PROGRAM IN A SENIOR LIVING COMMUNITY
Fall prevention program success criteria
Falls are the number one reason why residents move out of a senior living community. In a typical SLC, between 50% and 80% of residents will be at acute fall risk as measured by the CDC STEADI Protocol. This means that more than half of the residents in Senior Living are predicted by the CDC to fall nearly 2 times each year. If you’re running a Senior Living Community you are literally sitting on a time bomb.
Reducing falls not only prevents injuries and move outs, it makes the community a happier place. It is traumatic for all of the residents left behind to have one of their friends hauled away on an ambulance. This creates fear, which makes people less active in the community.
So it makes great sense to implement a fall prevention program. This article gives you pointers about how to build a program that is both effective and works with your budget.
How to implement a fall prevention program in a senior living community
Here are the recommendations that will help make your fall prevention program most effective:
√ Make it fun
Only about 5% of a typical community goes to an hour long exercise class. While they may be beneficial, they’re strenuous and not really that fun. It’s a great coincidence that the same cognitive exercises (trivia, word games, pattern matching, etc.) that make classes effective through dual-task training also make them fun!
√ Keep it short
It’s a fact that engagement falls off precipitously after 10 minutes. Hour long classes might be what we’re used to from school, but older adults are busy and don’t generally have the time or desire to attend long classes.
Balance can be improved in just 10 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week, if they include dual tasking exercises. So we recommend offering classes that residents want to go to – 10-15 minutes maximum.
√ Offer classes daily, at the same time
The corollary to having short classes, is that they need to be done repeatedly to be effective. Offer them daily at the same time, so they become habitual. We recommend right before lunch, something everyone does every day so that you can easily divert them into the balance class so by the time they’re ready to eat, they have done their balance work.
√ Use a validated balance improvement program
Designing the curriculum for a fall prevention program is not only hard work, it should be validated so that you know it will work. Nymbl has been able to show a 50% reduction in fall risk in Senior Living communities, so we encourage you to look at Nymbl. We offer a complete curriculum of exercises that will appeal to residents, are specifically developed to improve balance, and are validated in multiple studies.
√ Include dual-tasking exercises
As mentioned before, a wide body of research has demonstrated that dual-tasking exercises that train the reflex of balance are most effective. Physical exercises such as tandem stands, one leg stands and lunges should be done concurrently with cognitive challenges for best impact.
If the resident is concentrating on their balance, you’re not training the reflex required to prevent a fall.
√ Make it part of the daily community flow
In order to have a positive impact on the whole community, your fall prevention program should be a part of the daily community flow. Highest participation programs are breakfast, lunch, happy hour, movie hour and resident meetings. Why not start them off with a 10 minute balance improvement program that’s fun!
√ Make them available to everyone, independent of their level
No one likes to be shamed or feel that they are not as good as the others in a class. Nymbl classes are designed to have exercise routines for “high- medium – low” so that everyone finds something they can do, even if they are using a walker or are chair-bound. It’s not important that they do the exercises properly, it’s important that they dual-task! The reflexive part of the brain takes care of the rest.
Doing the cognitive challenges while looking at a screen, also reduces the behavior of looking around and comparing oneself to other residents. If they focus on the challenges, they’ll do great, no matter how anyone else is doing. This makes it more rewarding to attend class, and has fewer drop-outs because people feel intimidated by the others.
√ Get buy-in at all levels
Balance is essentially a wellness measure for the entire community. So it makes sense that everyone on the community staff and in the resident council buy into the program. This can take more time up front, but it pass huge dividends later when support for the program comes from all angles and you don’t feel all alone and responsible for the entire program.
Groups that should be “bought in” to the fall prevention program include:
- Executive Director
- Wellness Team
- Healthcare Team
- Activities Director
- Resident Council
√ Set objectives
No program does well if you don’t know what success means! Set clear objectives and have everyone in management agree to them. These objectives can be participation – such as 30% of the community, and improvement in balance scores. Nymbl offers a dashboard that makes this easy and instant.
Please also refer to our article on why fall prevention programs haven’t worked very well, to understand what not to do when setting up your fall prevention program!
We invite you to a free webinar if you’d like to dive more deeply into setting up a fall prevention program that meets the above criteria, and will have a measurable impact on the health and enjoyment of the entire community.
Or fill out this form if you’d like to speak with us directly.