Falls among the elderly contribute to roughly 1,800 deaths each year and statistics are showing that the problem is greater in nursing homes than anywhere else. Only 5% of the population above the age of 65 lives in nursing homes, but falls in nursing homes account for 20% of the falls that occur nationwide, regardless of location.
Many of the falls that happen in nursing home happen as a result of increased frailty among the members that live under assisted care. These falls can be easily prevented, however, by evaluating the contributing factors to falls in the elderly and adjusting the care given to patients in nursing homes accordingly.
Medications contributing to poor balance
Some medications may increase the risk of falls in the elderly if the side effects of the medications include dizziness, fatigue and muscle weakness. Many patients’ falls are directly related to the side effects of medication, and should be prescribed medicines with fewer side effects that increase the likelihood of a fall. Doctors should evaluate all of the medications that patients are currently taking and decide whether or not alternatives can be substituted in order to reduce the risk of falls in nursing homes.
Environmental dangers adding to fall risk
Despite the belief that nursing homes provide a much safer environment that reduces the risk of falls, between 16% and 27% of the falls that occur in nursing homes are the result of an environmental hazard. Tripping hazards can actually be more common in a nursing home than the hazards that exist in an everyday home. Nursing home staffs need to be aware of the tripping and falling hazards that exist and take more care to help patients avoid them. Chairs, stools, rugs, wet floors and other furniture can pose risks and furniture must be put out of the way and floors marked as wet in a way that the elderly can see and avoid the hazard.
Atrophy: When de-conditioning is a factor in falls
When a patient is confined to a bed or limited in his or her movement, muscles become atrophied and contribute to a greater risk of falling. Many of the falls among the elderly are the result of weakened muscle and nursing homes can inadvertently encourage this by limiting the amount of activity that patients are able to participate in. The fear is that allowing patients to be active could increase the chance that they will fall during activity. Instead of benefiting the patient, however, confining the elderly to beds will only make them frailer and subject to falls when they must walk or perform an activity.
Exercise: Pushing a patient too far
Encouraging the elderly to exercise helps them in many ways and will ultimately prolong their lives. Activities should not be too strenuous, but activity will prevent muscle weakness and help older people maintain balance and important motor skills. One common activity that is extremely helpful to the elderly is Tai Chi— a series of very slow and controlled movements combined with controlled breathing. Tai Chi classes for the elderly allow participants to perform the actions while seated or with a seat close by.
Exercise is not only an effective means of preventing falls, but it allows the elderly to feel less confined and maintain their sense of dignity and freedom. Many of the elderly participants in Tai Chi classes enjoy that the activity allows them to get away from normal day to day life and gives them the opportunity to do something fun and relaxing. Adults who exercise regularly also have a higher lifespan than those who do not and this remains true for the elderly.
Evaluating nursing home fall cases to determine if a facility is negligent
By properly evaluating the needs of patients, nursing homes can greatly reduce both the frequency of the falls and their severity that occur among their elderly residents. Keeping patients off of medication that comes with adverse side effects that contribute to falls, removing furniture, rugs and other obstacles from common areas and promoting activity are all ways to accomplish this goal. Through fall prevention, we can ensure that our loved ones live longer and healthier lives.
If your loved one has sustained serious injuries related to a fall or being dropped in a nursing home, they may be entitled to significant damages for their injuries for their related pain and medical expenses. A nursing home lawyer can review the circumstance and advise how to proceed with a legal claim or lawsuit against the responsible facility.