Falls are a common but often overlooked source of injury and, in many cases, death. Falls among nursing home residents however occur more frequently and repeatedly than in the home. In Ireland approximately 250 older people die each year from falls. Three quarters of falls related deaths occur among those aged over 65 and those who survive falls frequently sustain hip fractures and head injuries that result in a reduced quality of life with perhaps even a permanent disability .
How big is the problem?
About 5% of adults 65 and older live in nursing homes, but nursing home residents account for about 20% of deaths from falls in this age group.
Each year, a typical nursing home with 100 beds reports 100 to 200 falls. Many falls go unreported.
Between half and three-quarters of nursing home residents fall each year. That’s twice the rate of falls for older adults living in the community.
Patients often fall more than once. The average is 2.6 falls per person per year.
About 35% of fall injuries occur among residents who cannot walk.
How serious are these falls?
About 10% to 20% of nursing home falls cause serious injuries; 2% to 6% cause fractures.
Falls result in disability, functional decline and reduced quality of life. Fear of falling can cause further loss of function, depression, feelings of helplessness, and social isolation.
Why do falls occur more often in nursing homes?
Falling can be a sign of other health problems. People in nursing homes are generally frailer than older adults living in the community. They are usually older, have more chronic conditions, and have more difficulty walking. They also tend to have thought or memory problems, to have difficulty with activities of daily living, and to need help getting around or taking care of themselves. All of these factors are linked to falling.
What are the most common causes of nursing home falls?
Muscle weakness and walking or gait problems are the most common causes of falls among nursing home residents. These problems account for about 24% of the falls in nursing homes.
Environmental hazards in nursing homes cause 16% to 27% of falls among residents. Such hazards include wet floors, poor lighting, incorrect bed height, and improperly fitted or maintained wheelchairs. Total Slip Solutions can assess and remedy high risk areas such as showers, baths, tiles, decking etc. Medications can increase the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs, are of particular concern. Fall risk is significantly elevated during the three days following any change in these types of medications. Other causes of falls include difficulty in moving from one place to another (for example, from the bed to a chair), poor foot care, poorly fitting shoes, and improper or incorrect use of walking aids.
How can we prevent falls in nursing homes?
Fall prevention in nursing homes presents multiple challenges. It requires a combination of medical treatment, rehabilitation, and environmental changes. Making changes in the nursing home environment to make it easier for residents to move around safely. Such changes include ensuring that all surfaces adhere to guidelines. If they do not, a simple and cost effective solution is available through Total Slip Solutions in Wexford.
Total Slip Solutions would like to acknowledge the statistics in this article which were provided by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.