A geriatric psychiatric unit, or geri-psych unit, is an inpatient hospital unit which treats elderly people who suffer from emotional or psychological disorders. These units face a higher incidence of falls in than general care units. If your loved one is currently in a geriatric-psychiatric hospital unit, take care to learn more about the risks he or she faces on a daily basis and what you can do to help prevent falls and other injuries.

Why Patients Fall Often in Geriatric Psychiatric Units

There are two over-arching causes behind the increased number of falls in geri-psych units: physical well-being and mental well-being. In general, older adults in these units suffer from many geriatric symptoms, including mobility challenges, incontinence, poor balance and confusion. These symptoms all lead to a high of risk of falls.

Additionally, these older adults also suffer from psychological or emotional disorders. As part of treatment, these patients require psychotropic or antipsychotic medications, most of which have side effects that can increase fall risk. For instance, one report in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing found that a patient who takes two or more psychotropic drugs is two-to-nine-times more likely to fall than his or her peers.

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Six Common Fall Risk Factors Amongst Geriatric Psych Patients

According to a study in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, patients with the highest risk for falls presented with one or more of the following variables:

  • Parkinson’s syndrome
  • Dementia
  • Female gender
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

If your loved one presents with any of the common fall risk factors listed above, take immediate steps to speak with his or her care providers to learn which fall prevention techniques they are using and what you can do to help.

Hospitals Should Take Steps to Prevent Falls in These Units

Patients who fall in a geriatric-psychiatric unit can suffer severe injury, including head trauma and broken hips. This can lead to increased morbidity and mortality rates. It is critical that the nurses and doctors in these geri-psych units take comprehensive action to create a full fall prevention program to protect their patients. Hospitals and staff can also create specific care plans for each patient, similar to what happens in nursing homes. This will help identify patients who require increased monitoring and mobility assistance.

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