Each year, approximately 1.7 falls occur per nursing home bed. Because falls can lead to hip fractures, head trauma, and other injuries that may lead to death, analyzing the causes of falls and establishing prevention techniques is extremely important in assuring that your loved one’s nursing home is promoting the safety and well-being of its residents. With this goal in mind, the Journal of American Medical Directors Association published an editorial titled “Increasing Awareness of Factors Producing Falls: The Mini Falls Assessment” in its February 2012 issue.
The Mini Falls Assessment is a questionnaire that was developed at Saint Louis University. With just seventeen basic question categories, the assessment determines individuals who are at a higher risk of falling. The assessment inquires about polypharmacy, vitamin D use, blood pressure, sitting and standing balance, strength and gait, fear of falling, falls in the past six months, foot deformity, physical ability, weight loss, and frailty. Points are assigned to each question, and each patient is given a score, which, depending upon their answers, can total to thirty. The developers emphasize, however, that the scores are relatively unimportant because an answer of “no” to even just one question already puts the patient at a higher risk for falling.
Of all the risk factors that increase the likelihood of nursing home residents falling, the two that are most preventable are related to diet and exercise. In your search for the ideal nursing home, make sure that the facility not only employs a qualified nursing staff, but that there is also an adequate amount of indirect care staff. During mealtimes, a dietician should always be present. Malnutrition and dehydration can lead to weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, and frail joints and bones. These are all factors that significantly increase the risk of falls in elderly adults. Physical therapists should also be present to guide residents in exercises and activities that will improve their muscle strength. A recent therapy that has proven to be extremely effective is progressive resistance training, in which participants perform exercises against an external, opposing force that increases as the patient’s muscle strength improves.
It is no secret that patients who are susceptible to falls require additional care and assistance from nurses. Recent studies have discovered that elderly adults who reside in nursing homes fall three times more frequently than those who live independently. Inadequate staffing explains this shocking statistic. Many skilled nursing facilities are understaffed and are therefore unable to give each and every individual patient the attention that he or she needs and deserves from a skilled nursing facility. Consequently, residents fall, and even more shocking is the fact that they often are not found until much later, after they have already suffered the pain of their injuries for hours on end. If your loved one has died from a fall-related injury as a direct result of understaffing and nursing home neglect, you may be able to make a Wrongful Death claim.
Sometimes, instead of using fall prevention techniques, understaffed facilities employ the use of physical restraints. This is a direct violation of Patients’ Rights, which state that patients can only be restrained for medical purposes, and even then, they may refuse treatment. You must be cautious, for nurses often justify the use of physical restraints by claiming that they promote the safety of patients, as well as everyone around them. However, physical restraints are actually a direct cause of many health ailments, such as pressure ulcers and incontinence and also lead to a decline in independence and mobility.
Of all liability cases filed against skilled nursing facilities, 60 percent are a result of fall-related injuries. With the proper staffing and a hazard-free environment, the occurrence of falls in nursing homes can be avoided. If your loved one has sustained any fall-related injuries, he or she may likely be a victim of nursing home neglect because such injuries are preventable.