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Falls and Fractures in the Nursing Home

Falls are considered absolutely preventable, yet they make up more than a quarter of the visits to emergency rooms among nursing home patients. The worst part is that the Centers for Disease Control indicate that many falls in the nursing home go unreported, which means there is no accurate data on how many times these accidents happen. However, estimates imply that an average nursing home will see anywhere between 100 and 200 falls in a given year. While falls do not necessarily mean injury, they often do in elderly patients, and falls can result in fractures, disability, loss of function, loss of independence and a definite loss of quality of life. Residents of a nursing home who fear the possibility of a fall will often deal with anxiety and depression as well as social withdrawal.

The Numbers

Falls and injuries resulting from them are so severe that they are considered one of the biggest problems of nursing homes. The Centers for Disease Control lists some of the statistics involving the facilities:

  • The number of people living in nursing homes is growing. In 2003, there were around 1.5 million. That number is supposed to double by 2030.
  • The use of restraints, which happens regularly in nursing homes, doesn’t lower the risk of falls and injuries from those falls.
  • Possibly as many as one quarter of the nursing home falls that do occur happen because of environmental hazards, which can include poor lighting and wet or slippery floors.
  • Around one half to three quarters of nursing home patients will experience at least one fall in a year.
  • The estimates, according to the CDC, say that the average nursing home patient will fall between two to three times a year.
  • More than a quarter of nursing home falls happen in patients who do not even have the ability to walk.
  • As much as 20% of nursing home falls result in serious injury.
  • More than 1,500 nursing home residents die each year due to falls.

Because this is such a problem, it is very important that family and loved ones of a nursing home patient understand the issues and causes.

What Causes Nursing Home Falls?

In many situations nursing homes are understaffed and as a result there are not enough people to ensure every patient is properly looked after. Additionally, many of the people who live in nursing homes have medical conditions which makes them more prone to falls as well.

The causes of typical nursing home falls include:

  • Muscle Weakness
  • Walking Problems
  • Environmental Hazards
  • Changes in Medication
  • Types of Medication
  • Improper Foot Care
  • Inadequate Walking Aids
  • Damaged Walking Aids

There are studies that show how certain medications designed to help the elderly sleep have resulted in more falls and injury. This is most prevalent for patients who are prescribed the medication for the first time.

Many, if not most, of the nursing home falls are preventable and are due to a lack of proper fall prevention programs in nursing homes. It is vital that a nursing facility takes the time with each new patient to perform an assessment of fall risk. Additionally, facilities should ensure all staff are trained on how to prevent falls. Finally, nursing homes should be free of environmental hazards that could risk a fall. This includes wet and slippery floors, poor lighting, and items being left about. All mobility aids at the facility should be kept in proper working condition as well. If these issues are not handled properly, then a fall could be linked to a case of neglect in the nursing home.

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