A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reveals that one-fifth of newly admitted nursing home residents will suffer a fall within one month of their arrival at a facility. The research also concluded that this risk could be mitigated by introducing higher levels of staffing, including the presence of certified nursing assistants.
To conduct the study, researchers examined health care data for over 230,000 first-time residents of over 10,000 nursing homes in the United States. Of those patients, 21 percent experienced one or more falls in just their first thirty days of residency.
Falls in nursing homes can pose serious health risks to elderly residents. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates approximately 1800 nursing home residents die from falls each year. Even those residents who survive falls are at risk of sustaining hip or head injuries which can result in decreased quality of life or even permanent disabilities.
Falls among nursing home residents are extremely common—just 5% of adults over the age of 65 live in nursing care facilities, yet these residents account for almost 20% of fall-related deaths in this age group, according to CDC data. This is not entirely surprising—falling tends to be indicative of other, more serious, health problems and nursing home residents tend to be frailer and in worse health than peers who are living on their own.
Even so, some external factors do contribute to nursing home falls:
- Environmental hazards like wet floors, poor lighting, inappropriate bed heights and poorly maintained wheelchairs can cause between 16 and 27% of nursing home falls
- Medications which affect the central nervous system, like sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs, can increase the risk of falls in nursing home residents. Fall risks are particularly high during the first three days of a patient's introduction to a new medication
- Other contributing factors can include difficulty moving between locations, poor foot care, improperly fitted foot wear and improper uses of walking aids
In examining many of these potential causes for nursing home falls, the study researchers discovered that facilities with higher certified-nursing-assistant-to-patient ratios reported far fewer resident falls. Lead study author Natalie Leland, a research gerontologist and occupational therapist with the University of Southern California, concluded that nursing assistants reduce fall rates because they provide hands-on patient care during high-risk activities like dressing, using the bathroom and moving between locations.
Leland said, "Identifying risk of falling is essential for implementing fall-prevention strategies." While many previous studies have examined nursing home falling hazards, this study appears to be the first to specifically look at the dangers faced by newly admitted residents. These people are particularly at risk because they are already disoriented by their introduction to a new place with new, unfamiliar staff, the study authors said.
Selecting a nursing home facility for an elderly loved one can be a stressful process, but the information provided by this new study can help guide your choice. Clearly, a key factor to examine before selecting a facility should be the number of certified nurse assistants on staff at the home.
Even when the utmost care is employed in selecting a nursing home, residents may still suffer from accidents or injuries while in residence at the facility. If your loved one has sustained an injury while in residence at a nursing home, and you suspect it was caused by the facility's negligence, you may be able to seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering. Contact the team of personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin today. We will be happy to consult with you, free of charge, regarding your potential nursing home injury claim.