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Simple falls when we are young may not produce serious injury. But aging brings bigger risks to us when we fall. Over one-third—36 percent—of emergency room visits by those in nursing homes occur because of falls. If you are a senior, falling just one time doubles your risk of falling again; over three-fourths of accidental deaths involving those over 65 happen because of slips and falls. Worldwide, falls are the No. 1 cause of death and injury among the elderly.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nursing home residents are more likely to fall than elderly persons who live in their communities. Some of the increase in risk is because nursing home patients generally have more medical issues, take more medications, and are older, with limited mobility. They are sometimes frail, suffer from chronic illnesses, and are unable to perform daily tasks such as dressing, bathing, or eating without assistance. All of these factors increase the chances of a fall.
The CDC has compiled statistics that clearly communicate that the problem of falls in nursing homes is severe:
A study initially published in the September, 2015, issue of Rehabilitation Nursing strongly linked the risk of falls by nursing home patients 80 and older with certain life factors. Some of the factors that influenced risk included:
In all cases, the better the score was for these factors, the less likely it was that the person would suffer a fall in the future. Stronger lower leg muscles are one factor that can be improved if a skilled helper works with the patient. Therefore, a nursing home and its staff can influence, to a degree, some patients’ chances of falling.
When you are older, serious injuries of any kind make it difficult to live on your own, perform daily activities, and move around without assistance. In adults 65 and over, one in five falls causes significant harm, such as a head injury or a broken bone.
If an elderly person falls once, they often become fearful of falling again. Such fear can cause the person to limit their activity and thus grow physically weaker. Weakness increases the chances of a fall, creating a distressing cycle.
Many falls occur because a nursing home patient suffers from more than one of the following risk factors. A partial list of factors, some of which were previously mentioned, includes:
A number of the above situations can be mitigated, thus lowering fall risks. Often it comes down to having adequate, engaged staff who can work with patients to help them regain muscle strength and thereby achieve better balance and mobility. Controlling foot issues so that a patient can walk securely and without pain is also important, as is being present when a person with poor balance or mobility needs assistance.
One of the most critical issues is instituting and following a falls prevention program in a nursing home. Such a program can control many environmental issues by mandating:
Nursing homes can be liable for negligence if they do not provide a safe environment and a patient then experiences harm. Some examples of possible negligent situations include: