Nursing Home Injury Prevention

Injuries suffered at nursing homes are a growing problem. While only 5% of the elderly population lives in nursing homes, 20% of elderly falls and accidents occur in them. Almost 2,000 nursing home residents each year die from these falls, and many suffer from other injuries. Not every injury is preventable, but high-quality nursing homes have extensive training and safety systems in place to minimize the risk of injury among the residents.

How Serious Are Nursing Home Injuries?

Injuries at nursing homes are a very big problem. Elderly who live in nursing homes become injured at a rate much higher than the general elderly population. One reason for this is because the nursing home population is overall older, more likely to be ill, and more physically frail than the general elderly population, but this population difference does not completely explain the huge difference in incidence of injury. Here are some important facts about nursing home injuries:

  • In a single year, 25% of nursing homes are cited for causing death or serious injury.
  • At least 5,000 deaths each year are due to nursing home injuries and negligence.
  • 10% of nursing home residents suffer from bed sores.
  • Nursing home residents fall at twice the rate of other elderly populations.

Why Do Nursing Home Injuries Happen?

These injuries are caused by a variety of factors. Because nursing home populations are frailer and less mobile than other elderly populations, they are more prone to injuries. About one fourth of these injuries are the result of the muscle weakness and walking problems common among residents. Residents are also likely to be medicated, and sometimes overmedicated. Patients that are taking sedatives, antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety medication have increased risk of accidents.

Some nursing home accidents, as many as 27% of them, are caused by physical obstacles and hazards in the facility. These include things such as wet floors, narrow stairs and sharp gradations, objects in the hallway, beds at improper heights, and poor lighting. These obstacles make moving safely more difficult for the elderly residents.

Finally, another important cause of nursing home injuries is the inattention and neglect of the medical staff. A large proportion of nursing homes are understaffed. Without enough staff, these facilities struggle to adequately monitor patients as well as make sure that the environment is as safe as possible.

How Can Injuries Be Prevented?

Nursing home injuries can be prevented in the facility staff stays vigilant and consistently works to improve the safety of each individual as well as the safety of the physical environment. The CDC suggests that nursing homes adopt a multipronged approach to reduce the number of accidents. This involves:

  • Individual assessment of each patient including their likelihood of sustaining injury
  • Consistent reeducation of staff regarding risks and prevention strategies
  • Minimizing use of medicines that are most dangerous or likely to lead to injury
  • System checks to prevent overmedication and chemical restraint
  • Removing hazards and adding safety features to the facility
  • Exercise programs and vitamin D supplementation to improve mobility and decrease injury

By following these steps and other safety interventions, a nursing home can reduce the rate of injury sustained by its resident population.

Another simple, but expensive, way for nursing homes to make their facilities safer is to add more staff. With more medical professionals in a nursing home, residents can be given more individual attention and care. Larger numbers of medical professionals can:

  • Reassess the safety and mobility of residents more often
  • Ensure that patients are constantly readjusted to prevent development of bed sores
  • Closely monitor the physical health, mental health, and medications of patients

Sources:

D’Arcy, Laura, P., Yasuko Sasai, and Sally, C. Stearns. “Do Assistive Devices, Training, and Workload Affect Injury Incidence? Prevention Efforts by Nursing Homes and Back Injuries among Nursing Assistants.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 68.4 (2012): 836-845. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Neufeld, Richard R., Leslie S. Libow, and William J. Foley. “Restraint Reduction Reduces Serious Injuries among Nursing Home Residents.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 47.10 (1999): 1202-1207. Social Sciences Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Porell, Frank, W., and Mary, W. Carter. “Risk of Mortality and Nursing Home Institutionalization after Injury.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 60.8 (2012): 1498-1503. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

http://www.mastersinhealthcare.com/blog/2011/15-shocking-statistics-on-nursing-homes/

http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Falls/nursing.html