The vast majority of falls and injuries that happen in nursing homes are preventable. Yet the CDC reports the average nursing home experiences about 100-200 falls per year.
It is a troubling issue since some falls and injuries go unreported.
Falls can result in fractures, disability, loss of function, loss of independence, or reduction in quality of life.
Elders afraid of falling or who have fallen before may experience anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. However, cutting down on the amount of activities a person engages in may cause them to become weaker and increase their chances of falling.
Falling and Injury Statistics
For nursing home patients, falling is a major concern. Researchers estimate around a quarter of emergency room visits among nursing home patients are the result of falls.
- Anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of residents will experience at least one fall per year.
- Every year at least 300,000 older adults are rushed to the hospital for hip fractures.
- A quarter of falls happen to those who cannot walk.
- 1 out of 5 falls results in serious injuries such as broken bones and traumatic brain injuries.
- Up to 1,800 elderly die from injuries caused by falling each year.
Why Do Falls Happen?
Nursing home residents are typically older or in poorer health than seniors living on their own or with loved ones. This means they are at greater risk for falls and being injured from falls.
A quarter of falls are attributed to environmental hazards such as poor lighting, wet or slippery floors, and debris.
Nursing homes are also notoriously understaffed and may lack the ability to properly supervise and assist residents when the need arises.
A patient in bed can also be at risk. Failing bed rails account for 30 percent of falls among nursing home residents.
Other reasons include:
- Muscle weakness
- Walking/gait problems
- Foot pain
- Improper footwear
- Inadequate or damaged walking aids
- Medical conditions
- Vision problems
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Medication (sleep aids, tranquilizers, sedatives, anti-depressants, and other over the counter drugs)
The most vulnerable nursing home patients tend to have severe physical limitations, behavior problems, and other illnesses such as dementia.
Such patients are often the victims of neglect because of the intense care required to keep them safe and healthy.
Seeing the Signs
You may not always know if your loved one has experienced a fall. They may not be able to communicate what happened or the nursing home staff did not notify you.
Check for bruises, cuts, and abrasions. Watch for fearful behavior when they are moving around or being moved.
Ask other residents if they’ve seen your loved one fall.
Preventing Falls and Injuries
Talk to a physician or your loved one’s caregiver about the risks that come with their medication, health problems, and any prior history of accidents.
Exercise programs, physical therapy, balance training, and stretching are also beneficial. The activities won’t prevent falls but they may help improve leg strength and balance and reduce injuries and recovery time.
If a patient shouldn’t be moving around without help, ask if sensors can be placed to alert staff when they are getting out of bed unassisted.
It is also advisable to observe staff transferring your loved one to and from their bed. Fall accidents are much more likely to happen during bed transfers.
It should be noted that while bed restraints are often used to secure an elderly patient they do not lower the risk for falls and injuries.
If You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect
It is important to protect our most vulnerable and ensure they have quality care during their twilight years.
Give our office a call at 770-934-8000 to discuss your legal rights. Our attorneys fight for victims of nursing home abuse and negligence.
We can help you find justice for elders injured in nursing home falls due to mistreatment or lack of care.