Fall-related injuries are a major health threat for nursing home residents. Older people who live in nursing homes tend to fall more frequently than older adults who live within the community. Approximately 50 percent of nursing home residents aged 65 and over fall each year, and nearly 1,800 die annually as a result of their falls. About 10 to 20 percent suffer injuries, and 6 percent sustain fractures. In a typical 100-bed nursing home, 100 to 200 falls are reported each year, and many go unreported. When older people fall, they can experience decreased physical functioning, a reduction in the quality of life, decreased confidence, and an increased fear of falling, which can lead to further functional decline, depression, social isolation, and feelings of helplessness.
The law requires nursing home residents to receive adequate supervision and assistive devices to prevent accidents. When a resident enters a nursing home, a plan of care must be developed. Within this plan of care, the resident’s risk of falling must be assessed to determine what assistance the person may need to get around.
There are a variety of reasons why a nursing home resident might fall, including weakness and gait problems associated with old age. Unfortunately, however, many nursing home residents fall because of the nursing home’s negligence . Examples include falls caused by :
- Wet floors
- Poor lighting
- Lack of necessary bedrails and improper bed height
- Improperly maintained or fitted wheelchairs
- Medications, especially psychoactive drugs
- Difficulty in moving patients, or assisting them to the restroom, due to understaffing
- Failure to have sufficient staff to answer call buttons
- Failure to have call buttons that are in proper working condition
- Failure to properly train staff in lifting and handling techniques
- Failure of the staff to adequately supervise residents
- Poor foot care
- Weakness and gait problems associated with malnutrition and/or dehydration.