The ability to safely assist a patient during a fall is a crucial skill for nurses, nursing assistants, and other caregivers. Executed properly, an assisted fall can prevent serious patient injury.
With falls being one of the most common incidents in healthcare settings, learning this technique should be a top priority for anyone working directly with patients.
This comprehensive guide will explore what an assisted fall entails, who needs to learn the skill, how to execute it correctly, and why it matters so much for patient and caregiver safety alike. Read on to further understand this vital ability.
What Is an Assisted Fall?
An assisted fall refers to the process of carefully easing a patient to the ground to prevent them from collapsing and getting hurt. It involves strategic placement of the caregiver’s hands and feet to gradually guide the patient down while supporting the head and limbs.
The technique is employed when a fall seems imminent and the caregiver judges that they do not have adequate time, positioning, or strength to intercept it. Attempting to fully bear a suddenly collapsing patient’s weight could lead to injury for both individuals. The assisted fall allows for as gentle and controlled of a descent as possible.
Who Needs to Learn This Technique?
Any medical professional or caregiver who directly handles and mobilizes patients should be well-versed in assisted fall methods. This includes:
- Nursing assistants and patient care assistants
- Physical therapists
- Occupational therapists
- Home health aides
- Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
Additionally, it can benefit family caregivers to learn the basics as well. Anyone helping an elderly, ill, or mobility-impaired individual move around could encounter an unexpected fall. Having the tools to handle this dangerous situation can be invaluable.
Step-By-Step Guide to Performing an Assisted Fall
Executing an assisted fall requires quick critical thinking and strategic movement. Follow these key steps when faced with an imminent patient fall:
1. Quickly Assess the Situation
- Scan the area for hazards and obstacles that could harm the patient. Clear or pad sharp corners if possible.
- Determine which direction they are most likely to fall based on their movement trajectory.
2. Get Into Position
- Stand behind the patient with one leg forward and one leg back, shoulder-width apart for stability.
- Bend knees slightly and keep your core strong by pulling in abdominal muscles.
- Position yourself to guide the patient straight down rather than forward or to one side.
3. Carefully Ease the Patient Down
- Gently grasp the patient’s waist on either side, engaging your arm, shoulder, and back muscles to support their weight.
- Lower the patient straight down by bending your knees. Keep your back straight.
- Use the leg that is forward to brace and prevent both you and the patient from falling forward.
- Ensure the patient’s head remains upright throughout descent by cradling it with one hand if needed.
4. Guide Limbs Safely Down
- Pay special attention to guiding the patient’s limbs down slowly, starting with the legs.
- If they are conscious, instruct them to bend their knees and not resist your support.
- Prevent jarring collisions of knees, hips, elbows, shoulders, hands, and head with the ground.
5. Maintain Support Until Help Arrives
- Kneel or sit once the patient is on the ground, but keep contact by holding their hand, shoulder, or keeping your hands under their head.
- Offer reassurance that help is coming and discourage them from trying to stand on their own.
- Call for assistance immediately if it is not already on the way.
Following these methods, an assisted fall can lower a patient to the floor as slowly and safely as possible given the urgent situation. But as with any skill, practice makes perfect.
Why Assisted Fall Training Matters
Learning how to properly support a falling patient takes repeated hands-on practice to cement the right motions and thought processes.
Frequent training ensures that when faced with a real imminent fall, caregivers can swiftly step into the right stance and go through the descent motions fluidly. Practicing the coordinated movements of bracing, bending, lowering, and guiding limbs down in a controlled manner allows a caregiver to:
- Prevent collisions with nearby objects
- Minimize abrupt impacts with the ground
- Avoid placing dangerous strain on their own back
- Reduce risk of injuring themselves or the patient
Just as with real-life emergency drills, assisted fall drill scenarios prepare first responders for urgent situations where seconds count. They build the muscle memory and confidence needed to apply this safety technique when someone’s wellbeing hangs in the balance.
In healthcare environments, annual competency evaluations should include demonstrating assisted fall ability. But facilities can take it a step further by incorporating regular drills into their safety protocols.
Additional Safety Tips
Beyond technique training, several other factors impact assisted fall safety: Choose accessible locations for high-fall-risk patients
Place those with mobility impairment or dizziness closer to nursing stations and away from stairs or far bathrooms. This also makes it easier to reach them rapidly in an emergency.Keep patient areas clutter-free
Ensure halls, rooms, and frequently used areas have no tripping hazards. Conduct safety checks before each shift.Use gait belts for high fall risks
Securely wrapping a belt around a patient’s waist when moving them gives the caregiver something sturdy to grasp during an assisted fall. Have a post-fall protocol.
Staff should know exactly who to contact, how to move the patient post-fall, and necessary documentation procedures. Mastering the assisted fall process is about both prevention and response.
Caregivers should utilize all available safety measures while also being prepared to act decisively if someone begins to collapse. Frequent technique practice, paired with environmental precautions and solid emergency protocols, helps ensure patients receive the best possible care during and after a fall.