What OhioHealth is Doing to Prevent Falls and Educate Our Patients on Home Safety
by Jean Howard P.T., M.S., WCC, Manager of Clinical Services, OhioHealth Home Health
Leading experts from around the country are calling falls in the home an epidemic, and for good reason. We know the goal in home care is to provide a way to give the patient the best care possible at home and to keep them out of the hospital. In the comfort and sanctity of their own home they feel better about everyday life; a familiar place, with familiar people, and familiar surroundings. But after an injury or illness, sometimes having the old familiar items they have had around them for years, even decades, now presents a big challenge for safety. Some of the biggest challenges for a home health worker is trying to make sure that the patient has what they want, and need, while making sure that those things don’t present a safety issue that could land them back in the hospital.
There is some good news: Falls are not just a way of life, they aren’t happening just because someone is getting older, and we can help!
OhioHealth Home Care is a large multi-hospital based service line with home health locations in central Ohio, which includes Marion, Mansfield and Athens. We have over 300 field clinicians serving nineteen counties working hard every single day to improve the safety of our often frail or vulnerable citizens in their homes. Being such a big organization presents distinct advantages and challenges when it comes to fall education and prevention.
First, let’s discuss the challenges. How can we get our message across to so many of our associates and ensure we have a universal message and education plan? This year we worked hard to make sure every person that spends time inside of a patient’s home had what they needed.
We distributed approximately 2,500 discipline specific patient education/teaching sheets on preventing falls and community falls resources. The teaching sheets were all customized and discipline specific for Nursing, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Social Workers and our Home Health Aides to use and distribute to their patients.
In addition, and thanks to the generous support of donations through the OhioHealth Foundation, we will be distributing 1,000 nightlights to our homebound patients that may be at risk for falling due to night time visual impairments and no lighting.
Our goal is simple, keep people in their homes safely for as long as possible. The goal might be simple but the execution on a daily basis is anything but simple. There are big challenges when you go into someone’s home. First, every set up is different. We are a guest in people’s homes so finding a way to change someone’s home for their own good is not easy. You don’t want to come off as the safety police. What we try to do at OhioHealth Home Care is to earn that trust and help them understand and believe in what we are saying. We know when it comes to safety and fall prevention that we are the experts, with teams and individuals who have been doing this for years. And the great thing about our industry is that it has become much more sophisticated, with monitoring and tools available. But nothing gets around that personal connection. It is built with an understanding that we are part of their team now. This allows our great men and women to really shine, and show why they are so special.
One of the many things we have really focused on this year is the education component. We know that for a patient at home that balance is key. We started asking ourselves within OhioHealth Home Care, “What are we doing for intervention?” We know that we are the efficiency experts inside the home and can teach family members how to be there and help, but what about screening our patients for mobility so they know expectations and limitations. Because of that, OhioHealth Home Care started agency-wide screening for PTs and OTs to get an overall look at evidence based standardized plans for intervention.
We believe that home care works best when each discipline is working with the same play book. At OhioHealth, we sent out talking and teaching sheets for social workers, speech therapists, with their own focus and talking points to prevent falls. These color-coded sheets show everyone has a role, and some roles are similar, some are different. It is a concept, a plan that we will carry throughout the year.
I believe that gaining buy-in is key to making changes and implementing things we know will work. No matter if you are a smaller operation or a group as big as OhioHealth, you can never communicate enough. With your staff, your patient, or their family, sometimes it is that communication that will avoid a fall which could ultimately save a life. Falling into a false sense of security, taking something for granted, and/or not taking that extra step can be all the difference. OhioHealth Home Care is always trying to get better with the patient as our focus. Do we have it all figured out? No, and we never will. But nothing will stop our leaders and front line workers from trying to get better and be safer in the homes of our patients.