Falls and Fractures in Nursing Homes

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When it comes to nursing home injuries, falls are the most common cause by far. According to the CDC, falling results in the deaths of up to 1,800 people in nursing homes every single year in the US, and that number is only going to increase as nursing home populations explode. Currently, there are 1.4 million people aged 65 or more living in a nursing home. By the year 2030, that number will more than double to 3 million.

The Current Situation in Nursing Homes

Right now, the typical nursing home with 100 beds reports between 100 and 200 fall accidents per year. Yes, that’s at least one fall per bed, and up to two falls per bed every year. And, add to that the fact that many of these accidents go unreported. It’s a frightening situation, and one that leads to a high number of deaths, not to mention the impact on the quality of life of those who survive the initial fall and resulting damage. The most common result of fall within a nursing home is a broken bone.

It is important to note that nursing home residents are more likely to fall (and suffer an injury from the fall) than seniors living in their homes.

The CDC reports that of the people that fall each year in nursing homes, 1,800 of them die as a result. In 20% of falls, a serious injury results, usually a fracture to the hands, arms, ankles, legs, spine or hips. Even if the individual does not suffer a serious injury as a result of the fall, it can still cause a significant impact on their quality of life. Fear of falling and the potential for injury can lead to many seniors being too afraid even to get out of bed or their wheelchairs. This can lead to depression, lost quality of life and social isolation to name only a few potential complications.

Stats at a Glance

Here are a few startling statistics concerning falls and fractures in nursing homes:

  • 20% of falls in nursing homes result in serious injuries, including fractures.
  • The average nursing home patient falls 2.6 times per year.
  • Up to 75% of nursing home residents will fall.
  • Nursing home residents are twice as likely to fall as seniors living elsewhere.
  • Nursing home residents account for a full 20% of the deaths from falls in patients 65 or over.
  • Falling often results in broken bones. The most common is a broken hip, which frequently leads to death within the first six months of sustaining the injury.

Why Are Seniors in Nursing Homes More Likely to Fall and Break Bones?

There are quite a few different reasons that a senior living in a nursing home may be more likely to fall and to suffer a fracture as a result. One of those is muscle weakness, as well as walking problems. Up to 24% of falls in nursing homes occur with patients who are either not ambulatory, or have significant mobility problems.

Environmental hazards are also significant causes. Up to 27% of falls are due to things like poor lighting, a lack of handrails, wet floors and poorly maintained wheelchairs. These all fall squarely on the facility regarding responsibility.

Medication is another complication here. Many different prescription medications can cause dizziness, wooziness and limit balance. These include antidepressants, corticosteroids, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and many others. Patients who have had changes to their medications are actually at a greater risk of falling for a full three days after the change.

Reducing the Risk of Falls and Fractures in Nursing Homes

The most important thing to do to reduce the incidence of falls and fractures in nursing homes is to educate staff members about the most common causes. They should also be trained not to use restraints against residents, as they increase the risk of falling and suffering serious injury. Restraints should never be used as a fall-prevention system.

If your loved one has suffered a fall and fracture while living in a nursing home, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to learn more about your options for pursuing the case.