Falls in Nursing Homes

Nursing home patients experience an estimated 2.6 falls per year.

A fall is defined as any unplanned event that causes an contact with another surface. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for older adults, and they can have a negative physical, emotional and social impact on an elderly person’s quality of life.

A large majority of nursing home falls are related to environmental hazards, which could be anything from a wet floor to a lack of adequate safety equipment, lighting, guards or rails. In addition, some nursing home residents may be more likely to fall due to cognitive difficulties, improper medication dosage or overmedication. A lack of supervision is a preventable cause of many falls in nursing homes.

Why are falls common in nursing homes?

Seniors may move into a nursing home because they have limited mobility, chronic illness, cognitive difficulties or other conditions that require assistance with regular activities. Regardless of the reason, elderly patients in nursing homes often need intensive assistance.

The majority of falls in nursing homes are preventable with adequate staff, comprehensive training and proper planning. When staff members properly attend to patients, nursing home residents are less likely to experience a fall.

What are the causes of nursing home falls?

Research shows restraining patients is not a proven, effective method of preventing falls. Identifying the potential risks of falling is the best method to lower a patient’s chance of falling while living in a nursing home.

There are multiple risk factors, such as personal characteristics and environmental circumstances, that contribute to a fall. Nursing home falls may be caused by a combination of issues, including:

Physical Disabilities – Patients who spend a lot of time in bed or in a chair may have muscle weakness or atrophy, which causes trouble while walking, moving or balancing.

Environmental Hazards – Patients with physical disabilities may require support from bed or chair accessories, in addition to bright lighting, non-slip floors, and a clear, non-cluttered walkway.

Improper Medication – Patients receiving medications, especially sleep aids and anxiety treatments, may be affected if drugs aren’t dispersed at an appropriate time of day based on the prescribed dose.

Unattended Wandering – Patients with cognitive difficulties may forget where they’re going or what they’re doing, which could result in a confused state.

Unmanaged Foot Care – Patients with diabetes and limited mobility may have issues with circulation and sensation, which could lead to lower limb issues.

Inadequate Aides – Patients who don’t have the proper devices and accessories may be unable to stop a fall without grab bars, bathing support and handrails in the bedroom, bathroom or common areas.

What are the complications of nursing home falls?

Between 10 percent and 20 percent of nursing home falls result in serious injury for the elder patient.

Falls often reduce the quality of life of seniors in nursing homes, causing injury, disability or death. The impact of the fall may lead to anxiety and depression, which stems from a lack of confidence in carrying out regular tasks or an inability to engage in daily activities.

Fall prevention should be a part of each nursing home patient’s comprehensive care plan. When creating a care plan, staff should assess a patient’s risk of falling to provide applicable modifications for mobility, stability and comfort.

Falls in nursing homes can result in a number of injuries, such as:

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Fractures
  • Seclusion
  • Paralysis
  • Death
  • Other Disabilities

If you or a loved one experienced a fall in a nursing home, please contact our attorneys immediately.

Updated by Jerry Parker

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