Home Safety for the Homebound Patient
By Doug Rodgers, First Texas Home Health, Texoma LIVING WELL Magazine
Managing a home-bound patient’s medical condition is obviously top priority for any home health company including ours. However, there are other key areas that can impact a patient’s medical condition and affect his or her health outcome as well. One of these very important areas is home safety.
Let me ask you a question. Have you or someone you know ever been in a situation where you entered into a medical care facility, for some type of treatment or surgery and upon returning home had an unforeseen in-home accident or fall which landed you back in the emergency room and hospital for further care? If you answered “yes” to this question, you are not alone. Unfortunately, this type of scenario is played out within our older population everyday. In reality, most accidents should and can be prevented by using the proper safety interventions. These interventions can help to reduce future unplanned emergency and hospital stays thus increasing a patient’s positive health outcome.
For several years now, our agency has taken a long hard look at how and why these situations continue to plague the elderly. First, we had to “define” the problem and secondly, ask ourselves, “What can we do internally to reduce safety risks for our own patients?” Safety risks can be anything that could potentially cause a patient accidental harm (i.e., unsafe entryways, stairs, doorways, wet showers and tubs, unsecured rugs, slick floors, unstable furniture, clutter, inadequate durable medical equipment such as a walker or cane, etc.).
When addressing safety, these “environmental” risks are extremely critical but there are other physical and mental complications that can cause problems as well. Daily habits, diet, lifestyle, vision, hearing and strength are all extremely important factors when focusing on safety. Recent case studies, physician articles and state approved continuing education programs have now revealed some very astounding information to us. Though the concept of safety has been well formulated and an abundance of clinical research has been performed focusing on the safety of patients in their living environment, home health agencies, as a whole, have shown little ability to adopt, formulate or include significant safety intervention programs for their patients. One case study involving 23 home health agencies and 1,010 patients revealed that less than 3% had legitimate safety goals and interventions. Such revealing data has been a real eye opener to our own agency and caused us to refocus our practices as managers and clinicians to implement “meaningful” safety intervention programs for each and every one of our patients.
Our approach is a very comprehensive one that takes into consideration the “entire” patient, the specific tasks at hand and the environment in which those tasks are performed. Upon admitting a patient, our specialty trained physical and occupational therapists utilize a very thorough clinical tool for measuring environmental, physical and mental safety risk in that particular individual’s home or situation. The therapist then addresses each environmental safety risk by improving, modifying or reconstructing the questionable areas within or outside the perimeter of the home. Upon being discharged from home health, health outcome information regarding the patient’s safer environment is recorded throughout the course of care and reported back to the appropriate treating clinicians as evidence of health improvements. This innovative tool has proven itself to reduce safety risk in the homes of our patients and allows our staff to provide personal, proactive, preemptive care that reduces preventable hospital or emergency room visits.
As you can see, home safety is extremely critical in regards to treating the home bound patient and how it can affect the health outcomes of the patient. As we all age and face future health issues, most of us will have the opportunity to utilize home health care as part of our treatment plans. When researching and selecting a prospective home health company either for yourself or a love one, I encourage you to ask questions regarding home safety and inquire specifically about proven intervention programs that they may or may not offer.
Every patient should be given the opportunity to reside in a safer environment and live more independently.
First Texas services 12 North Texas counties. If you or someone you know could benefit from a home health evaluation, or would like more information, contact First Texas Home Health at 866-998-5369. You may also visit first-texas.com.