Preventable Falls Pose Serious Risks to Elderly Population

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that about one out of three people who are 65 years and older fall each year. Moreover, one-half to three-fourths of nursing home residents suffer from falls every year. These falls, while preventable, are dangerous and may have lasting, serious repercussions for this vulnerable population. For example, these falls may not only result in permanent disability and a diminished quality of life, but the CDC reported that within nursing homes, there are about 1,800 elderly residents who die from falls each year. However, while serious, such falls are very preventable.

The injuries resulting from these falls may range from head trauma, to a variety of fractures including hip and leg fractures. In addition, many traumatic brain injuries are caused by falls. Not only do these falls lead to physical injury, but many elderly residents who do fall also begin to develop a fear of falling which may further limit their willingness to engage in physical activity. If elderly residents begin to reduce their mobility, it will heighten their actual risk of falling. Additionally, their fear of falling may also lead to feelings of helplessness and depression.

Unfortunately, statistics demonstrate that falls occur more frequently among nursing home residents. It is true that nursing home residents are generally in poorer health and frailer than their peers, as they are generally older and suffer from other chronic problems. In addition, they may need more aid in going about their daily activities. However, despite these factors, falls and resulting injuries are very preventable if caretakers remain proactive in fall prevention. Thus, it is important and necessary for caretakers to assess patients to identify their fall risk and implement prevention strategies.

Inferior conditions present at these nursing homes contribute to the problematic issue of falls. Falls commonly arise because elderly residents may try to move to go to the bathroom on their own after calling a nurse for help, but staff fails to arrive for a long period of time. Thus, understaffing at these facilities may contribute to the problem. Furthermore, another major contributing factor involves the administration of medication. Medication which influences the resident’s central nervous system, such as anti-psychotics, may influence coordination and create confusion, thereby increasing a patient’s risk of falling. Nursing home caretakers may prescribe such medication in order to make residents more compliant. However, the use of drugs in this context acts as a chemical restraint and is highly inappropriate and forbidden by the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. Rather, caretakers should carefully review medication that has been prescribed in order to determine any risks that may arise, and should minimize the use of such drugs unless medically necessary.

Additionally, nursing home facilities should implement preventative aides to make it safer and easier for the elderly to move. For example, it was found that bed rails did not increase the risk of falls or resulting injuries. Moreover, practices including implementing grab bars, lowering bed heights, and providing patients with protective mats next to their beds were found to lower the risks of falls, and prevent serious injury if a fall were to occur. It is important to note that the CDC had found that the routine use of physical restraints did not lower an individual’s risk for falls or injury. Therefore, it is important for caretakers to understand that restraints increase the risk of falls and resulting injuries within the elderly population, and they should not be used as a prevention method. In addition, restraining a resident’s ability to move will further result in their immobility and lead to muscle weakness, again increasing risk for future falls.

If you believe that your family member or loved one has suffered a preventable fall or injury because of inadequate care at a nursing facility, or that they might currently be at risk for injury within a facility, please contact the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi at (888) 606-3453 today for a free consultation. Our specialization in nursing home neglect disputes has provided us with a thorough amount of experience in handling cases concerning falls and related injuries that could be prevented. We are located in both Northern California and Southern California and serve cities and towns statewide. Allow us to help protect your loved one’s rights to an adequately staffed environment safe from the fear of a preventable fall.