Approximately 47 million seniors live in the United States. And although only about 3% of them live in the more than 15,000 retirement homes and facilities, these facilities are invaluable in providing an enriched social environment for our elders.
Senior living facilities give residents the comfort of a home environment, providing them with the necessary services they require to give their families peace of mind that their loved ones are being cared for. These elders receive assistance with activities of daily living, get all meals provided, and enjoy friendly companionship. Retirement homes afford greater safety and care for seniors with chronic health problems than living alone.
It’s a fact, though, that senior living facilities face a broad spectrum of ongoing challenges, from everyday risks as staffing, safety and resident retention to patient behaviors and newer risks like data breaches and other cyber-related attacks. What is more, some of these facilities have not taken adequate measures to make their surroundings safe for the senior residents.
Understanding the top hazards faced by senior living facilities can give caregivers the insight needed to address them proactively and highlight what steps can be taken to help keep the elderly loved ones safe. Here are the top five safety hazards discussed below:
1. Resident Abuse and Crime
Senior adults can be vulnerable targets to wrongdoers with evil intentions. Such felons could easily pose as visitors to the facility and could pose a serious risk to the elderly being housed in the facility. Sad to say, sometimes the culprits of such misconduct has been the very staff who have been entrusted to care for these elderly ones.
Such was the case in a recent news item where Phoenix police are investigating the possible sexual abuse at a nursing facility after a female patient who has been in a vegetative state for at least ten years became pregnant and gave birth. It highlights how vulnerable an incapacitated, or older adult can be to assault.
It, therefore, stands to reason that senior members residing in a facility need to empowered to send critical alerts in the event of a potential attack, abuse or crime against them. Importantly, these notifications should be easy to send and must be received by administrators in real-time.
On a similar vein, these senior persons also need to be assisted to understand the common forms of internet fraud that target the elderly and how to avoid them. We say this because, surprisingly, research by Pew reported that almost 50% of American adults aged 65 and used Facebook. Combine that with an analysis by GlynnDevins of website traffic for over 80 senior living facilities in the U.S. that revealed that more than 33% of website traffic was coming from a mobile device. Thus, to avoid being victims of fraud scams, it is important to educate them on how to protect themselves.
2. Slip and Fall Accidents
Falling is the leading cause of senior injuries and death. In fact, slip and fall accidents are the most common type of injury among senior living facilities.
In 2016, the CDC reported that in a given year about 25% of senior Americans (age 65 and above) fall, making it the leading cause of senior injury and death. A related report stated that nearly one in three seniors become injured each year due to a fall; every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Alarming statistics indeed!
Among the top causes of slip and fall accidents that have been identified are poor or deteriorating health, medications, post-hospital return, surroundings and fear of falling. The ensuing injuries can range from moderate to severe. But even with minor injuries, a fall can lead to a decline in the person’s willingness to participate in activities due to fear of falling again.
Because every senior living facility has a duty of caring to their patients, you may find yourselves subject to costly litigation following a fall accident. Preventive tactics against falls include regular exercising for balance, keeping floors clutter-free, and having an emergency notification system in place.
3. Fires and Other Emergencies
Fires, natural disasters, active shooter situations, and other emergencies present a horrifying risk in a senior facility for this simple fact: evacuating elderly and infirm persons quickly can be a challenging feat to accomplish successfully. More so if the air is polluted by smoke and fumes. That is why compared to the rest of the American population, people between ages 65 and 74 are nearly twice as likely to die in a fire, 75 and 84 are nearly four times as likely, and those 85 and older are more than five times as likely.
True, most retirement facilities have fire alarms, smoke detectors, and sirens installed. Even fire drills are frequently conducted. But all this fire-fighting and fire-preventive measures don’t measure up to the level of efficiency required in our modern era. How much helpful these measures can be when coupled with a mass notification system! The latter is a must-have tool that can be useful in sending out critical and time-sensitive information within a moment’s notice to both staff and senior residents within your facility in the wake of a fire emergency. It can be timely in keeping all concerned audiences informed, safe and connected in an unexpected situation such as a fire incident.
4. Negligent Security
Retirement facilities are especially in jeopardy when it comes to matters security. Typically, these facilities receive many guests on a daily basis, and unscrupulous individuals may exploit this provision to breach security systems. Such uninvited and unsolicited guests may pose a danger to vulnerable residents.
Hence, facility administrators should ensure CCTV cameras cover the entire premises. Visitors should be asked to present photo identification upon check-in. Adequate security measures should be put in place to ensure residents don’t leave the facility unguided. Residents who have dementia should not have access to unlocked exits. Discourage thieves with adequate outdoor lighting or, better still, motion detection lights.
5. Deficient and Substandard Design
Senior living design still falls short of the standard required for such facilities. For instance, obstructed walkways pose significant dangers to seniors, especially those who rely on a cane or walker to get around. If grab bars and handrails are wobbly, poorly adjusted, or missing in bathrooms, these could increase the chances of a slip and fall accident. Seniors often trip on loose rugs or high-pile carpets. Insufficient and outdated lighting increases the risk of falls and can cause residents to be disoriented.
Create a safe living environment for seniors by looking out for unattended carts, unused wheelchairs, cords, and any other debris or clutter on walkways. Rugs, if used at all, should be properly secured and carpets should be low-pile, clean and in good condition at all times. Likewise, the waxed or polished floor should be avoided at all costs as these can be extremely slippery especially when wet. Seniors should be provided with sturdy shoes with rubber soles for maximum traction. Installation of smart, responsive lighting could be a wise investment.
Mitigate Hazards by Enhancing Communication With a Mass Notification System
Let’s face it: You cannot eliminate all the hazards that confront retirement facilities. But as discussed, these risks can be reduced to the unavoidable and unforeseeable minimum. Still, many facility administrators continuously grapple with the challenge of effectively communicating with staff, residents, and families in real-time. So imagine how much better communication can be with a modern mass notification system.
An effective notification system for the elderly should be capable of summoning assistance at the push of a button. Facility administrators and staff will be better placed to respond to emergencies and general inquiries from their residents. Seniors should be able to immediately call for help if they have fallen or have any other type of emergency by clicking a button that’s always with them. A good vendor should be able to run a demo of their notification system to show how practical and effective it would be to your facility.