Facts about Falls in Nursing Homes

Jun 23, 2015

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1,800 nursing home patients die each year from fall-related injuries. Those who survive may sustain injuries or temporary or permanent disability.

With more than 1.4 million adults age 65 and over in the United States, the concern over abuse or neglect in nursing homes is steadily growing. About 5% of these elders are living in nursing homes. However, 20% of fall-related deaths involve nursing home patients.

What are the most common causes of falls in nursing homes?

Muscle weakness and difficulty walking: Most elderly adults who reside in nursing homes may already be experiencing muscle weakness, difficulty walking, joint pain, or other debilitating ailments, diseases, or conditions that may hinder their ability to live on their own, thus requiring assistance. Muscle weakness and walking difficulties account for 24% of nursing home falls.

Safety hazards: Safety or environmental hazards can be attributed to 15% to 27% of nursing home falls. Putting in grab bars, raising toilet seats, removing debris or hazards, installing handrails, lowering bed heights, and maintaining the facility may help to eliminate hazards that make falls more common.

Some of these hazards include: Wet floors, debris or hazards in stairways and hallways, broken equipment, incorrect bed height, poor lighting, broken fixtures, and malfunctioning wheelchairs, to name a few.

Improper transfer in and out of bed: Nursing home staff should be properly trained in assessing patients and maintaining patient safety. This includes proper training and experience in transferring patients to and from various locations, such as to and from bed, assistance in the restroom, and transferring to different rooms or locations.

Understaffing: Unfortunately, many nursing homes are way understaffed and do not have enough help to effectively execute proper procedures and protocols that can ensure patient safety.

Improper training of staff: It is important that nursing homes train staff on assessing fall patients, in addition to educating staff about fall risks and prevention strategies.

Forgetting to lock wheelchair wheels: Staff should always lock wheelchair wheels. The risk of injury and/or falls increases significantly if a nursing home resident in a wheelchair is suffering from a cognitive disorder, such as dementia. It is particularly important for staff to regularly monitor their patients while also making sure that they are locking wheelchair wheels.

Over-medicating: Fall-related injuries tend to occur more often with patients who are taking sedatives or anti-anxiety medications, as these drugs affect the central nervous system, thus increasing the risk of fall-related injuries.

How to Prevent Falls in Nursing Homes

When choosing a nursing home for your loved one, you hope to find a facility that is compassionate, responsive, knowledgeable, and responsible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. That is why it is important to thoroughly research the nursing home facility that you are considering for your loved one.

In order for nursing homes to prevent risk of injury from falls, they must:

–       Assess patients. Conduct assessments on patients that have a history of prior falls.

–       Educate staff

–       Review the prescribed medications that your patients are taking and monitor the resident.

–       Regularly check the facility for environmental and safety hazards.

–       Implement exercise programs that increase strength, balance, walking ability, and physical functioning.

–       Teach patients about hazards and other potential safety risks.

Steps to Take if Your Loved One Has Fallen in a Nursing Home

Contact the nursing home abuse attorneys at the Brown Wharton & Brothers for a free consultation to discuss your family’s legal rights. Falls in nursing homes may be prevented, and if your loved one has experienced injury or harm resulting from a nursing home fall, it is important to learn more about potential compensation that your family may be eligible for.