Healthcare facilities have long understood that patients whose conditions include mobility problems are at an increased risk of falling and injuring themselves. In recognition of this fact, such facilities – including nursing homes – often institute internal policies and procedures governing the process of identifying those patients who are at high risk for falls as well as mechanisms for preventing those patients from falling.
The risk of falling for those patients with mobility impairments is exponentially higher when going to and from the restroom, when showering, and when changing clothes. During these times, a nurse or other healthcare provider should remain in close enough proximity to the patient to catch them if he or she appears unsteady or is about to fall. In the field of nursing, the term used to describe this close proximity is a “contact guard” and requires that the nurse maintain “contact” with a patient’s body so as to both support and assist them while ambulating. In the event that a patient should begin to fall, a nursing aid who is maintaining proper contact with a patient should thus be in a position to “catch” the patient and guide them to a walker, chair or to the floor in a manner that would avoid a traumatic fall/injury.
Unfortunately, physicians, nurses, and other staff at these facilities often violate their own policies and procedures by failing to provide contact guard assistance to patients at increased risk of falling. When a patient who is already at a heightened risk for falling does in fact fall, it can cause catastrophic injuries and aggravate the already-compromised condition of the patient. Falls also can cause significant setbacks in many patients’ road to recovery. Of course, in elderly patients, a fall can result in a shortened road to ultimate demise.