Top 5 Reasons for Nursing Home Falls

March 27, 2015
nursing home falls

People who aren't able to take care of themselves often go to nursing homes due to the belief that they will be in less danger of problems than if they stayed at home. As a nursing home employee, part of your job is to make sure that your facility is indeed as safe as possible. Since falls are one of the greatest dangers residents face, you need to be aware of their causes so that you can work to prevent them.

The consequences of a fall are often severe for those residing in nursing facilities. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 10-20 percent of falls in these institutions result in serious injury, and about 1,800 residents die from such injuries every year. Between half and three-quarters of residents will take a fall in any given year. Here are some of the things that contribute to these accidents:

  1. Drugs. Many nursing home residents are given antipsychotics, tranquilizers, and other drugs in an effort to keep them calm. Unfortunately, these substances also cause confusion, unsteady gait, and loss of balance. Minimizing the use of such drugs will reduce one of the biggest causes of patient falls.
  2. Inadequate staffing. In many long-term care facilities, a wing with 30 or more residents may be watched by only one nurse. This is especially true at night and this situation can cause many problems when residents need to get up but no one is immediately available to help them. One solution is to install bed alarms for fall prevention. These sound off when a resident leaves the bed.
  3. Lack of proper equipment. Nursing home beds often lack bed rails and the beds are adjusted so that they are high off the ground. Adding bed rails and bed safety bumpers can greatly reduce accidental falls.
  4. Existing health conditions. Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other such diseases result in unsteady gaits that can lead to falls. Other health problems, like orthostatic hypotension, can cause residents to become weak or faint if they try to stand up suddenly. Maintaining a close watch on residents affected by these and similar conditions reduces the risk for falls.
  5. Lack of a comprehensive fall prevention plan. Fall prevention in nursing homes includes the proper placement and installation of bed alarms, chair alarm systems, fall mats, improved lighting, emphasis on keeping rooms and hallways free of clutter, re-assessment of medications, use of sitters and increased overall staffing.

By paying close attention to all of these factors, it's possible for nursing homes and long-term care facilities to reduce the number of falls and reduce injuries from any falls that still occur. The ability to show that steps were taken to prevent falls will also help in the legal arena in case a fall results in litigation. Because of all of these factors, investing in the best possible fall prevention products and plans is definitely worth the investment for all nursing facilities.