Working in a nursing home is unlike other nursing jobs. For one, you’ll be taking care of people who are in their senior years. Secondly, you’ll be working with residents for the long term, some of which are non-disabled, while others may require special care. All in all, you’ll be helping aging residents to live their fullest potential.
However, just because nursing home residents are primarily seniors in the final stages of their lives, it doesn’t mean there are no injury hazards in the workplace. Many nursing home facilities are understaffed and underfunded that they often become a hotbed for neglect.
You may have read in the news about countless complaints made about nursing homes unable to provide a good work environment for their workers. Worse, even residents may suffer abuses, and there’s more than one great post to read about such nursing home issues.
Preventing Common Nursing Home Injuries
Addressing the abuses residents may suffer in nursing homes goes beyond the boundaries of this article. But there’s something that you or your facility can do to prevent common injuries among workers.
Here are some of the top causes of injuries at a nursing home and how you can prevent them from happening:
1. Tripping, Slipping, And Falling Injuries
Just like in a regular hospital, nursing homes can pose risks of injuries caused by falls, trips, and slips. Wet floors, misplaced objects, like a resident’s walking device, and poor workplace lighting are just some of the causes of injuries in a nursing facility. Moreover, residents who are in their twilight years are prone to leaking bodily fluids, which may cause floors to become slippery if it’s not thoroughly cleaned off.
Fortunately, injuries caused by tripping, slipping, and falling can be prevented. Here are some ways to keep workers safe from these types of injuries:
- Adopting programs that effectively eliminate slip hazards, such as safety signages in the workplace and employee awareness
- Use of insulated, anti-slip, or anti-skid flooring materials
- Require workers to use slip-resistant footwear
- Clean liquid spills immediately
Besides the abovementioned proactive steps, facilities should also add physical rehabilitation therapy as part of their workers’ compensation program. By doing so, in the unfortunate event that an accident does happen, the person involved will have a better chance of restoring or regaining their strength, mobility, and overall health.
2. Needlestick Injuries
At the height of the pandemic, nursing home facilities became a hotspot. Authorities estimate that 43% of pandemic deaths occurred in nursing homes, even if the number of people living in such facilities accounts for only 1% of the total U.S. population. But things have been improving in the last few months, and infection cases are dropping as active vaccination drives have been put in place in nursing or assisted-living facilities.
That said, vaccination programs can present work hazards to vaccinators in the form of accidental needlestick injuries. Indeed, this type of accident doesn’t usually call for a few days of work absence. But when the world is still reeling from a pandemic, one can never be too careful about infections, especially those caused by accidental contact with used needles.
To prevent needlestick injuries, nursing homes should:
- Make sure relevant workers receive proper training or education in injecting patients
- Use duly accredited vaccinators whenever possible
- Ensure that workers tasked with vaccination duties are themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 and even Hepatitis virus
- Implement safety rules like no recapping of needles after use or provide a secure place to store and dispose needle safety boxes
3. Injuries Due To Violence By Residents
As a nursing home worker, you can expect that several residents under your care will have dementia and other mental disorders commonly linked to aging. Such conditions can affect a person’s mood, and they may turn violent at any time.
To prevent or at least mitigate injuries caused by violent residents, nursing home facilities should:
- Segregate residents who have violent tendencies
- Investigate all cases involving violent residents
- To ensure potentially deadly objects are secured, improve housekeeping procedures
- Stress can cause some residents to be violent. Hence, a facility must have several means to relieve stress among residents
4. Injuries Caused By Overexertion
Overexertion can cause bodily injuries, which, though mostly not fatal, may require workers to have a few days off to recover. Injuries may be varied and can affect muscles, tendons, joints, and even the spinal column. As its name suggests, overexertion is triggered by too much physical exertion and repetitive muscular activities.
One good example of overexertion would be lifting heavy objects without the use of proper equipment. Repetitive bending and twisting of the body can also cause torn muscles and ligaments.
Here are some tips to prevent injuries caused by overexertion:
- Allow nursing home workers to have multiple breaks during their shifts
- To minimize body and leg strain, install absorbent anti-fatigue mats on nurse station flooring
- Make sure workspaces are ergonomically designed to minimize body twisting and bending
- Regular safety training for nurses, especially those that focus on proper patient-handling techniques, should be held
5. Sleep Deprivation
Workers in a nursing home facility may experience sleep deprivation. While this may not be an outright injury, insufficient sleep can trigger several health conditions and may even cause accidents to happen. Ultimately, sleep deprivation can affect how workers perform their jobs.
It would always be best to make sure that nursing home workers get quality sleep or, at least, fight off the effects of sleep deprivation before they get to work. Here are some ideas to help them do just that:
- Each nursing home worker should work the same shifts, so they don’t have to adjust sleep hours every week or month
- Exercise is known to help induce better sleep. So, facilities should invest in employee fitness programs
- Facilities may establish comfortable day-sleep areas. This allows workers to catch sleep during breaks
Working in a nursing home may well be considered a noble job because you’re helping senior residents enjoy their sunset years. However, just like in any work environment, nursing homes pose risks that may cause injuries to workers.
Nursing home facilities can prevent accidents and work injuries by investing in the latest equipment and regularly conducting training and education programs for all employees. Do note that if you’re disabled or unable to work due to a work-related injury, you can claim benefits. Consult with your lawyer to know your rights as an injured nursing home worker.