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Study: New Nursing Home Patients At Increasing Risk of Falls

We all know that the elderly in general are more vulnerable to severe injury when suffering a fall. Their bones are more brittle and break easier. Such an incident may result in permanent disability, functional decline and an overall reduced quality of life – not to mention death if the fall is serious enough.

What you may not realize is that new nursing home patients are at high risk for these type of injuries. Our Deerfield Beach nursing home neglect lawyers came across a recent study, published this year by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, that shows more than 20 percent of all newly-admitting nursing home patients suffers a fall within that first month.

The research was based on Medicare and Medicaid data collected from 2006, and included records on more than 230,000 patients at more than 10,000 nursing homes across the country.

The single biggest risk factor in these cases was a lack of proper staffing. Low staffing levels inevitably led to lowered patient safety, researchers found.

A very similar study found almost exactly the same thing back in 1995. That study, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, found that patients who were moved to a new facility were at heightened risk of a fall. In fact, the fall rate doubled for non-bedridden patients after relocation to a new nursing home.

The Centers for Disease control report that every single year, a typical nursing home with 100 beds reports anywhere from 100 to 200 falls. That’s at least one per year per patient, but usually more. The average number of falls per patient is 2.6, the CDC indicates. Also, we need to point out that many falls go unreported.

We may not think of falling as being serious, but when you are elderly, it absolutely is life threatening. In fact, an estimated 1,800 nursing home residents are killed every year as a result of a fall.

Then you have another 10 to 20 percent that result in serious injuries, and then another 2 to 6 percent that result in broken bones.

The CDC indicates that of course there are a number of medical risk factors that can heighten the chances that a person may fall. Those include muscle weakness or certain chronic conditions.

However, other risk factors include environmental hazards. In fact, anywhere between 16 to 30 percent of all falls in nursing homes are caused by some environmental hazard, such as poor lighting, incorrect bed height, wet floors or wheelchairs that aren’t fitted or maintained correctly.

Additionally, certain medications are known to increase fall risks, particularly those that affect the central nervous system. These would include substances like anti-anxiety medications and sedatives. It’s well known that nursing home staffers tend to over-medicate patients and then not properly monitor them, so this is another factor in all this.

Some nursing homes have been known to try to reduce their fall rates by using restraints. But this isn’t actually effective in preventing falls, and actually, leads to an increased risk of painful pressure sores – not to mention a decrease in the quality of life.

It’s the nursing staff’s responsibility to be there 24-7, to provide appropriate care and prevent injury. When that doesn’t happen, serious or fatal fall accidents may result.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Falls in Newly Admitted Nursing Home Residents: A National Study, May 2012, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Abuse: Always Question Staff’s Version of Injuries, Nov. 10, 2012, Deerfield Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers’ Blog

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