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Falls in Nursing Homes

Even though falls can be a common occurrence among the elderly citizens, when looking at the statistics, it is enough to cause concern for alarm, especially when factoring in the amount of falls that could have otherwise been avoided in nursing homes:

  • The largest single cause of falls among the elderly, at 36 percent, of potentially preventable hospital emergency room visits made by nursing home residents is injury due to a fall.
  • Deaths, sometimes even wrongful deaths, of approximately 1,800 nursing home residents each year can be attributed to fall-related injuries.
  • A typical, 100-bed nursing home reports at least 100 to 200 falls per year. Keep in mind these are only the reported falls. Several nursing home falls are never reported.
  • Adults 65 and older are four times more likely to die of fall-related injuries if they live in a nursing homes compared to those that live at home or with loved ones.
  • Up to 75 % of nursing home residents fall on an annual basis. This is more than double the rate for senior citizens who don’t live in nursing homes. Over a third of fall-related injuries happen to residents who can’t walk.
  • Although a relatively small number (2 to 6 %) of falls result in fractures, 10 to 20 % of nursing home falls cause extremely serious injuries. Many of these injuries lead to loss of function and disability; the resulting fear of falling can also lead to further loss of function, social isolation, and depression.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 16 to 27% of nursing home falls are a result on environmental hazards.

Typically,  nursing home residents are on average older and in poorer health than seniors citizens who live in in their own homes or with loved one. As a result, nursing home residents may be more prone to falling and accidents. However, a well-run and effective nursing home should be able to prevent the majority of these incidents. It’s imperative for nursing home staff members to be attentive at all times, especially to patients who suffer from physical disabilities and cognitive impairments such as dementia. These residents should always receive the proper foot care, shoes, and the appropriate walking aids. In addition, nursing homes should never have environmental hazards, and if any occur, they should removed immediately. Environmental hazards consist of poor lighting, slippery floors, debris in walkways, improper exit signs, broken equipment and more. Moreover, incorrect bed heights and faulty bed rails should be remedied immediately. Faulty bed rails and incorrect bed height accounts for close to 30 percent of nursing home falls nationwide.

Other Ways to Prevent Nursing Home Falls

As previously mentioned, nursing home staff should always be attentive to residents, and the proper equipment should always be available to those who need help walking. Additionally, however, there are several other ways falls can be prevented, or at least reduced significantly, in nursing homes:

  • Every resident should have a completed risk assessment which includes past accidents and falls, medications taken, and general physical health.
  • Staff members should be properly trained on fall prevention strategies as well as the risks involved when a resident falls.
  • Exercise programs, including physical therapy, stretching, and balance should be available to all residents. Although statistics show that exercises may not help with falls, it will help to improve strength and balance which can help lessen injuries should a fall occur.

Falls and Neglect

When the aforementioned issues are neglected, falls can and do occur, and residents suffer physically and mentally as a result. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect is still an all too common problem not only in the United States, but worldwide. Researchers in Michigan recently published the results of a random sampling of family members of elderly nursing home residents. The results were disturbing: more than one in five reported nursing home residents were neglected in the previous year. Since family members are often unaware of incidents of neglect, the study’s author predicted that the actual number of neglected residents was almost certainly higher than 20 percent. Although this particular study was limited to nursing home residents in Michigan, this is a common problem with nursing homes throughout the nation and world.

Although the study did not specifically address specific falls caused by neglect or nursing home abuse,  it did look at incidents of physical neglect in which nursing home staff failed or refused to meet various needs of residents, including personal safety. Disturbingly, the study found that the most vulnerable residents — those with severe physical limitations or behavior problems caused by dementia and other illnesses — were most at risk of being neglected. Not only are dementia patients notoriously a bit more difficult to handle, but their lack of communication and memory skills makes them prime candidates for neglect and abuse.

Take Action

If you notice your loved one has bruises, cuts or abrasions, or if he or she has grown more fearful of getting up and moving around, falling may be an issue. Ask your loved one or other residents whether he or she has fallen; observe whether or not staff monitor residents when they are walking; ask if the staff use sensors that sound an alarm when residents try to move or get out of bed unassisted. If your loved one is unable to walk, watch when staff transfer him or her out of bed to see whether it is done carefully and safely. Not all falls can be prevented, but a fall-related injury is definitely a warning sign of nursing home neglect.

Getting Legal Help

If your loved one has been injured from a fall or any other accident because of nursing home negligence and/or abuse, you’ll need a leading nursing home abuse attorney by your side. Per state and federal laws, victims of nursing home abuse and/or their loved ones can file civil damages for pain and suffering, medical negligence, financial exploitation, wrongful death, and more. Contact a nursing home abuse lawyer today.