Nursing Home Falls

Nursing Home Law Center Staff

Falls in nursing homes may be the largest heath threat to the elderly. Older people tend to fall more frequently than their younger counterparts. However, when an older person falls they are substantially more likely to become injured than a younger person. Some startling statistics from the Center for Disease Control demonstrate the obvious: falls in nursing homes are widespread and have a devastating impact on the residents.

  • About 1800 people die each year due to falls in nursing homes
  • 10 to 20% of nursing home falls result in serious injury, 2 – 6% of falls result in fractured bones
  • 3 out of 4 people living in a nursing home will fall this year
  • Most people are ‘repetitive fallers’- After a first fall, there is a substantial likelihood that you will fall again
  • Most falls go unreported

Falls in nursing homes occur for a variety of reasons. Some of the more common causes for falls are:

  • Muscle weakness and walking or gait problems. (24% nursing home falls)
  • Hazards in the nursing home- wet floors, poor lighting, improper be heights, improperly maintained wheelchairs, equipment left out of place (16 – 27% nursing home falls)
  • Medications. Drugs that effect the central nervous system, such as sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs (psychoactive drugs)
  • Improperly fitting shoes or incorrect walking aids
  • Frequent use of restraints

The prevention of falls requires a team approach. All health care professionals in the nursing home setting must work together to help encourage nursing home safety. Additionally, nursing homes should do the following:

  • Conduct a fall-risk assessment for every resident to determine who may be at risk for falls. This puts the staff on notice as to who may need special attention.
  • Install safety devices such as grab bars, adjustable height beds and handrails
  • Review all prescribed medications to assess what residents may be a fall risk due to the nature of the medication
  • Install alarms on on beds and chairs for residents who are at a particularly high fall risk.
  • Remove clutter from walkways

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