Falls in nursing homes are alarmingly common, with statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicating that 50-75% of nursing home residents experience falls annually. This rate is twice as high as that of older adults living outside of nursing homes.
Moreover, approximately one-third of nursing home residents who experience a fall are at risk of falling 2-3 more times within a single year. It's notable that the average nursing home, housing 100 residents, reports an average of 100 to 200 falls annually.
Falls can lead to severe and fatal injuries
The consequences of falls in nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, and memory care units can be particularly serious, especially for frail elderly residents. The incidence of falls resulting in injuries is notably higher among residents 85 and older compared to all other age groups.
If your loved one has experienced a fall or any other injury in a Western Pennsylvania nursing home, personal care home, assisted living facility, or memory care unit, it's important to have a clear understanding of your legal options. Contact Hal Waldman & Associates to see how an experienced Pittsburgh nursing home negligence lawyer can help.
Nursing home falls by the numbers
Here are some additional facts about nursing home falls from the CDC:
- Approximately 1,800 people residing in nursing homes die due to falls each year.
- Residents frequently experience multiple falls, averaging around 2.6 falls per person annually.
- Roughly 35% of nursing home fall injuries involve patients who are unable to walk.
- 10-20% of falls in nursing homes result in severe injuries.
- Despite only 5% of adults over 65 living in nursing homes, residents in this age group account for a staggering 20% of all fall-related deaths.
Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, personal care homes, and memory care units should adopt a proactive approach to fall prevention by identifying and mitigating factors that increase residents' risk of falling.
Likewise, staff members should be trained to prevent falls and provide immediate assistance to residents who do fall. If they have failed in their duty to protect your loved one, they may be held financially and legally accountable.
Common causes of falls
To enhance fall prevention efforts, staff must receive proper training to identify these and other potential hazards and implement effective preventive measures.
Key factors contributing to nursing home falls include:
- Muscle weakness: Older residents often experience muscle weakness and mobility difficulties, which account for approximately 24% of falls.
- Environmental hazards: Environmental factors, such as wet floors, inadequate lighting, incorrect bed heights, and poorly fitted wheelchairs contribute to falls in 16-27% of cases.
- Medications: Certain medications, especially sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs affecting the central nervous system, can elevate the risk of falls. This risk is particularly high in the days following changes in medication or dosage.
- Abusive behavior: Instances of abusive behavior, whether from staff or other residents, can lead to falls and injuries.
Common injuries from falls
Falls can result in a range of injuries, varying in severity from minor to life-threatening. Some of the most common injuries that residents sustain due to falls in nursing facilities include:
- Bone fractures: Falls often lead to fractures, with hip fractures being particularly prevalent. Fractures can be painful and may require surgery, potentially leading to complications for older adults.
- Head injuries: Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and concussions, can occur when residents strike their heads during a fall. TBIs can have long-lasting cognitive and physical effects.
- Soft tissue injuries: Falls may cause soft tissue injuries such as bruises, sprains, and strains, which can be painful and take time to heal.
- Internal injuries: The impact of a fall can result in internal injuries, including organ damage, internal bleeding, or rib fractures. These injuries may not always be immediately apparent and require prompt medical attention.
- Worsening of existing conditions: Falls can exacerbate pre-existing health conditions, complicating the overall care of residents.
- Infections: When falls lead to open wounds, there is an increased risk of infection, which can be particularly dangerous for older adults with compromised immune systems.
- Reduced mobility: Injuries from falls can result in reduced mobility and functional decline, making it more challenging for residents to regain their independence.
- Wrongful death: In severe cases, nursing home falls can lead to fatal injuries, causing the untimely death of residents.
When falls do happen, prompt medical attention, thorough assessments, and appropriate care plans can help mitigate the impact and improve residents' chances of recovery.
Preventing nursing home falls
Preventing falls in nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, and memory care units requires a multifaceted approach to address various risk factors. Here are some key strategies that facilities can implement to reduce the risk of falls among residents:
- Individualized care plans: Facilities should create individualized care plans for residents, taking into account their unique medical conditions, mobility levels, and fall risk factors.
- Regular assessment: Routine assessments of residents' physical and cognitive abilities can help identify changes that may increase their risk of falling.
- Medication review: Healthcare providers should regularly review residents' medications to minimize the use of drugs that may increase fall risk.
- Staff training: Staff members, including nurses and caregivers, should receive thorough training in fall prevention techniques and identifying risk factors.
- Environmental modifications: Facilities should assess and modify the physical environment to eliminate hazards, such as wet floors, poor lighting, and uneven surfaces.
- Assistive devices: Providing residents with appropriate assistive devices, such as walkers and handrails, can enhance their mobility and reduce fall risk.
- Supervision and monitoring: Staff should provide adequate supervision and monitoring, especially for residents at higher risk of falling.
- Communication: Effective communication among staff, residents, and their families can help ensure everyone is informed about fall prevention strategies and resident-specific needs.
- Reporting and investigation: Establishing a clear process for reporting and investigating falls is essential for understanding the causes and implementing preventive measures.
What to do if your loved one falls in a nursing facility
If your loved one has suffered an injury in a Western Pennsylvania nursing facility, taking immediate action is crucial to protect their interests. At Hal Waldman & Associates in Pittsburgh, our experienced nursing home negligence lawyers are here to ensure that your loved one receives the justice and accountability they deserve. To learn more about how we can help with your potential legal case, schedule a free and confidential consultation with our law firm.