Falls in nursing homes are not uncommon. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (under the Department of Health and Human Services), of 1.6 million U.S. residents in nursing facilities, about half experience a fall in any given year. Even more concerning is that of those residents, about a third will fall more than once. Residents are typically elderly, sick and frail or have issues with balance, strength and gait. They are in a nursing home because they can no longer live independently. They require a heightened level of care to prevent occurrences like falls, which could have serious and potentially fatal consequences. Alarmingly, one in 10 falls results in a significant injury, which can result from a resident hitting their head or breaking a bone, such as a hip.
Nursing facilities have a responsibility to ensure that effective protocols are in place to prevent the occurrence of falls. Such protocols should include assessment of each patient for fall risk, implementation of precautions to minimize the risk of falls, and proper staff training and supervision.
Some common causes of falls in nursing facilities include:
- improper assessment of a resident’s risk for falls
- improper implementation of fall precautions
- malfunctioning or defective equipment such as bed alarms
- inattentiveness of staff to resident needs
Unfortunately, the main factor related to the high incidence of nursing home falls is staff. It is imperative that a facility be properly staffed so there are no delays or failures in responding to patient calls or bed/chair alarms. It is not unusual for a resident, who needs help with walking or transferring, to attempt to get out of bed or a chair and walk to the bathroom because his call for staff assistance is not answered and to fall while doing so. Just as important, staff must be properly trained on fall precaution protocols and adequately supervised to ensure those protocols are properly implemented.
Falls should not occur. Nursing facilities have a duty to keep your loved one safe. If effective protocols are in place and staff is properly trained, the number of falls would be significantly less. If your loved one has experienced a fall, especially one that has resulted in injury, call us.