Effectiveness of Alarms in Avoiding Risk of Falls in Geriatric Nursing Home

Abstract

Falls of residents in a nursing home present a challenge to effective provision of care. Tools that can identify risk factors thus help care providers to initiate the appropriate responses would thus alleviate this challenge. This paper considered the effectiveness of alarms in preventing falls of geriatric residents of nursing homes. Although introduction of alarms was lauded as a progress towards eliminating falls in care-provision environments, the use of such alarms has presented various challenges that cloud their efficacy. For instance, such alarms are suggested to lead to complacency of care providers in the knowledge that an alarm would always sound incase of movement thus contribute to delayed responses. Secondly, such alarms are a nuisance to residents with the noises they emit being potential sources of stress, anxiety and depression in such residents. Finally, such alarms’ accuracy may be affected by the movement patterns of the residents.

Introduction

A common occurring phenomenon in care environments for the elderly are falls, which could lead to injuries or death following such injury (Cameron et al., 2010). Effective preventative approaches are thus critical in alleviating such falls that could have significant negative effects on health benefits achieved following provision of care. Although the cause of falls in older people could arise from a combination of factors, in other cases such falls may result from single determinants such as visual impairment (Cameron et al., 2010). Preventative measures would thus be better suited following a risk assessment to target such initiatives to the relevant individuals. However, with suggestions that majority of falls in nursing homes take place in the resident’s room as one tries to get in or out of bed (Capezuti, Maislin, Stumpf and Evans, 2002), various preventative initiatives targeted at such an environment have been applied in nursing homes.

Apart from interventions aimed towards social environment (e.g. staff ratio and training), medication and surgery to correct contributing factors such as visual impairment, and psychological interventions among other initiatives, preventative interventions have consisted of environmental or assistive technology (Cameron et al. 2010). Such environmental technology include modifications to fit bilateral side rails on residents beds, and use of signaling or information-conveying aids such as bed-exit alarms (Capezuti et al. 2002; Cameron et al. 2010). The subject of this paper is to review the efficacy one such signaling aid – alarms – that alerts the care providers about a resident’s movement so that they can render appropriate assistance. The objective will be to assess whether use of alarms is effective in reducing the risk of falls for the geriatric population in the nursing homes as compared to other tools. To achieve this objective, the paper reviews literature that assess use of alarms in nursing homes and compares such with the effect noted for other preventative tools. Go to part 2 here.

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