After the age of 30, a person’s strength and endurance will decrease by 10% each decade. At least one-third of individuals over 65 and over 40% of people aged 80 and above fall each year. For elderly patients living in nursing homes, falling is a serious risk that leads to injury, disablement, and even death in serious cases.
It is the responsibility of caretakers and nursing home staff to ensure that older residents are protected from fall injuries. In cases when this does not happen, we as nursing home abuse attorneys at Thomas Law Offices work hard to prevent and stop nursing home abuse and neglect in Chicago.
After learning about the risk factors for falls in older adults and what to do when a resident falls in a nursing home, reach out to our office it you have more questions.
Risk Factors for Falls in Older Adults
Falls are a top cause of death and disablement in older adults—in fact, falling is the leading cause of injury in adults 65 and over in the United States. Studies have shown that over one-third of adults 65 and over suffer falls each year, and over half of these individuals fall more than once. Other research reports have listed falling as one of the most common and serious issues contributing to disability within the elderly population.
But falls can be prevented. Targeting and modifying risk factors can save lives and stop injuries before they happen. By knowing the risk factors of falls in older adults, you can help keep yourself or a loved one safe. Before looking at environmental risk factors, let’s first examine the risk factors in the older individuals themselves which can increase the likelihood of a fall. The following factors can contribute to a higher risk of falling, especially in combination:
- Advanced age, as fall risk increases with age
- Gender, as women fall more frequently than men
- Previous injuries
- A more sedentary, rather than active, lifestyle
- A history of falling
- Fear of falling
- Being prone to or having a history of self-neglect
- Drugs (especially antiarrhythmics, digoxin, diuretics, sedatives, and psychotropics)
- Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
- Cognitive disorders
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Alcohol abuse
- Bone and muscle weakness
- Vision impairment including glaucoma and cataracts
- Medical conditions (especially vascular diseases, arthritis, thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, depression, and issues causing vertigo)
- Poor nutrition
- Foot issues such as calluses, blisters, or overgrown toenails
- Poor or ill-fitting footwear
There are also environmental factors that can lead to a fall. If you observe any of the following signs in a nursing home or long-term care facility, you know that this may not be a safe environment for an elderly resident. These are common causes of nursing home falls and fall-related injuries. These red flags can indicate fall risks are present:
- Hallways, seating, and bed areas are not designed with fall-risk patients in mind.
- Low lighting makes it difficult to see clearly.
- Objects are left lying on the floor, steps are broken, loose rugs are present, or the walking areas are generally cluttered or in disrepair.
- There is no preventative plan in place to protect patients from falls.
- There is a lack of railings and grab-bars.
- Residents are routinely neglected.
- Patients who fell previously were not properly assessed after the fall to prevent future falls.
- High-risk patients are not adequately monitored.
- Staff members are sometimes not aware that a fall occurred.
- Resident-on-resident abuse is allowed to take place.
- Residents are not encouraged or given opportunities for physical activity.
- There is no emergency plan in case a patient falls.
- Staff are unresponsive to calls or there are abnormally long response times.
- There are poor hiring practices and a lack of supervision.
- There are issues related to understaffing.
Elderly Patient Fall Statistics and Facts
The average nursing home reports at least 100 to 200 falls each year. These are only the reported falls, and experts estimate that the number may be much higher. Research findings gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have revealed the following facts about falls in elderly patients:
- Millions of older adults in the U.S. fall each year, and roughly 3 million are treated in an ER.
- More than half of fall victims don’t tell their doctor.
- A first fall incident doubles the risk of a second fall.
- About $50 billion is spent annually on medical costs related to fall injuries, and $754 million is spent related to fall deaths.
- Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in older adults.
- Over 95% of hip fractures come from falling.
Indoor falls are generally much more common than outdoor falls, with bathroom and bedroom areas being the most common fall sites. While the exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, some research shows that as many as 29 million adults 65 and older fall in the United States each year, and others list the number as high as 36 million. As the population ages, the CDC anticipates that, based on current numbers, fall incident rates will increase up to 52 million in the next ten years.
What to Do When a Resident Falls in a Nursing Home
As we have seen, the first steps to learning how to protect a loved one from falling in a nursing home include assessing your loved one’s risk of falling and examining their nursing home environment for potential hazards. When your loved one’s health and safety are at stake, prevention should be a top priority.
Much nursing home fall research has indicated that the most successful fall prevention strategies consider multiple environmental and individual-related causes. Interventions by nursing homes should aim to improve strength and functioning in residents, reduce environmental hazards, and allow many opportunities for staff to identify and monitor high-risk residents.
Elder care medical research also shows that effective preventive measures need to be tailored to the individual patient’s cognitive and physical impairments. This means that nursing home staff members need to be fully familiar with the needs of each patient in order to protect them as effectively as possible. It is right to expect that a nursing home will provide your loved one with the individual care they need.
When a nursing home is not doing its part to engage actively in fall prevention actions, they are neglecting a duty of care to residents. When you learn that a fall has occurred because a nursing home did not take adequate preventative measures, you need to know that legal action can be taken against the institution that caused harm.
When a resident falls in a nursing home, it best to look more closely at the nursing home to understand if neglect or abuse has led to the injury. There are steps to take to report nursing home abuse and neglect in Chicago if you suspect wrongful practices. Speaking with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer is the best way to learn what options you and your loved one have after a nursing home fall injury. If you have further questions, or to schedule a free consultation with a nursing home abuse attorney, reach out to Thomas Law Offices in Chicago.