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As designers and manufacturers of innovative medical communication technologies, Curbell understands both the challenges and critical importance of communication between caregivers and patients. Lack of communication can lead to a range of potentially fatal hazards. Among the most common, the threat of patient falls often emerges from a patient’s reluctance to communicate the need for necessary assistance. The high stakes of effective communication in medical care thus require a deeper understanding of the issues that often inhibit the clear communication of patient needs.

The emotional obstacles to communication often represent the greatest challenge to building effective relationships between caregivers and patients. Why? Because, for patients of all ages and backgrounds, discussing health-related problems often involves the very difficult emotional experience of vulnerability. None of us likes to come off as “weak” or vulnerable. Conversely, it’s not news that people prefer to appear strong and healthy.

A patient’s need to look healthy and strong is much more complex than a simple issue of pride. There are many reasons why people experience this need. For instance, some studies link the reluctance to communicate health needs as an evolved survival instinct: Early humans that appeared healthy and strong were less likely to get attacked by predators.

Whatever the reason, developing effective communication involves understanding that a patient’s reluctance to communicate the need for assistance stems from a common and very normal need to assert a capacity for independence. How many of us have argued with aging relatives to use a cane or a walker when they have fallen at home? The need to remain independent “to simply stand and walk on one’s own” becomes a battle for life over disability and death.

  • Nurses are well trained in the universal precautions for preventing patient falls:
  • Place a patient’s bed in a lowered position when they are resting, and in raised position for transferring out of bed;
  • Keep hospital beds and wheelchair brakes locked,
  • Make sure that patients use nonslip footwear;
  • Provide and use night lights;
  • Keep floor surfaces clean and dry;
  • Keep patient care areas uncluttered;
  • And, finally, follow safe patient handling practices.

Nurses also educate patients in safe practices that encourage patients to do the following:

  • Use the call light to summon assistance when getting out of bed;
  • Become familiarized with their environment;
  • Demonstrate use of the call light and keep it within reach;
  • Keep personal belongings within safe reach;

Employ sturdy handrails in bathrooms, rooms, and hallways. And yet, despite all these precautions, patient falls represent a recurrent danger. The average cost for a fall with injury is about $14,000, and 30-50% of falls result in injury. And, as we have seen, much of the challenge comes in the instinctive tendency to associate the capacity to appear strong and healthy with the ability to survive. For patients, this instinct leads to an innate need to demonstrate the ability to stand and walk on one’s own. Considering this need, for caregivers, preventing patient falls can amount to an uphill battle against a basic human need. How do you control human nature? The answer: there is no way to absolutely control what another human being does.

The use of Curbell Medical fall management systems, however, can improve a patient’s sense of control and autonomy in the communication process. And, in providing patients with this confidence, Curbell  helps open the door to the kind of trust and communication that reduces incidents of falls and injury.