What Is Happening in Nursing Homes?

According to recent statistics, falls among nursing home residents occur frequently and repeatedly. Over 2000 older adults living in nursing homes die each year from fall-related injuries. Those who survive falls frequently sustain hip fractures and head injuries that result in permanent disability and another step down in their quality of life. Nursing homes with 100 beds typically report 100 to 200 falls a year, but many more falls go unreported, the CDC says. As many as half of the nation's nursing-home residents fall at least once every year - and many fall more than once.

Falls are common in nursing homes.

About 35% of fall injuries occur among residents who cannot walk. These are people who are frail, have multiple chronic conditions, have memory problems and have difficulty with their basic activities of daily living. Often they forget to use a walker, cane or wheelchair. They need to go to the bathroom, so they just get up. This causes a chain reaction of events that often includes more surgery, traumatic head injuries, more medications, more skin breakdown, and increased risk of infections and bed sore complications. This can all lead to a quicker death and/or greatly reduced quality of life.

Some of the most common issues and causes of falls in nursing homes include:

Sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs affect the central nervous system, and are of particular concern. (Fall risk is significantly elevated during the three days following any change in these types of medications.) Environmental dangers exist in nursing homes and can include wet floors; poor lighting; tree debris in the outside area such as wet leaves or pine cones; squirrels or other small animals that startle a resident; incorrect bed height; improperly fitted or maintained wheelchairs; and incorrect use of walking aids.

Fall Prevention Statistics
  • One out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury.
  • Treatment typically includes surgery and hospitalization, usually for about one week, and is frequently followed by admission to a nursing home and extensive rehabilitation.
  • One in three adults who lived independently before their hip fracture remains in a nursing home for at least a year after their injury.
  • Researchers estimate over 234,000 people ages 15 and older go to the emergency department each year because they got hurt in the bathroom.
  • The study found two thirds of injuries happened in a shower or tub.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

(Source: Centers for Disease Control)

Final Fall Prevention Tips

References and Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Preventing Falls: A Guide to Implementing Effective Community-Based Fall Prevention Programs

CDC Falls Prevention

The American Geriatrics Society Guideline for the Prevention of Falls in Older Persons

Mayo Clinic Fall Prevention

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

The Independence Exercise Chair

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