Providing services to the elderly is a fundamentally sensitive process. The patients are often in high-risk situations due to health issues or mobility problems. And, given the nature of the work performed by aging services providers, avoiding risk is very difficult to do. Companies must manage and plan for it carefully. Unfortunately, they must also expect their efforts to fall short.

This issue has always existed, but it’s about to explode. As of 2017 there were around 50 million elderly Americans. However, this does not account for the massive numbers of Baby Boomers approaching retirement age. By 2060 the US elderly population will be a lot closer to 100 million, or a quarter of the US population.

That means aging services providers will be more in-demand than ever. But as demand increase, so does risk. And as the number of elderly Americans prepares to double, the scope and scale of risk will increase in kind. On top of this, providers must account for new and emerging risks like cyber liability. In general, the risk landscape is about to get a lot bigger and a lot more complex.

There are whole textbooks related to risk management in healthcare. Any provider must make this a major priority or risk facing huge financial liability. Rather than trying to condense all risk management strategies, this piece focuses on the most urgent.

Falls are the single greatest source of risk/liability is aging services facilities. A study by CNA reveals that out of 2,617 closed claims, 42.7 percent were related to falls and totaled $208.4 million in claims payouts. To put this in perspective, the second leading source of risk was pressure ulcers. Yet these accounted for only 18.6 percent of claims. The risk of falls is one that providers must manage urgently.

Reducing the risk takes two initiatives – lowering the frequency of falls and lowering the size of claims. The same report from CNA outlines best practices for all providers to follow:

  • Enlist the Help of Leadership – A fall-reduction program must be led from the top down. The support of leadership ensures the project has the necessary investment and attention.
  •  View the Problem Holistically – There are myriad factors that lead to falls and no one-size-fits-all solution. Taking multiple measures to manage fall risk is the best approach.
  •  Take an Individual Approach – The way to manage falls is different for every patient. Providers should have business insurance in order to broadly manage the risk. However, each patient should have a fall-prevention strategy tailored to their individual needs.
  •  Consider All Residents – Some residents are at higher risk of falls then others, but all are at some risk. Avoid the instinct to focus only on the residents most likely to be at risk.
  •  Monitor for Effectiveness – After putting fall prevention measures in place, track to see how effective they are. Track both the number of falls and the amount paid out to settle claims.

A revolution is about to hit retirement. It’s incumbent on all aging services providers to prepare. Those who get started early worry less about risk and enjoy greater rewards as well.