Loss of muscle strength in elderly adults is an extremely serious problem because it occurs within the entire elderly population. Between the ages of fifty and seventy, adults lose thirty percent of their muscle strength. As they approach the age of seventy, elderly adults experience a loss in muscle strength of 1.5 percent per year. Because loss of muscle strength is associated with physical frailty, increased dependency, and a decline in strength, balance, coordination, reaction time, flexibility, and muscular and cardiovascular endurance, it is important to prevent or delay its onset for as long as possible. Lower muscular endurance and balance, specifically, are directly responsible for the occurrence of falls.
Fortunately, treatments and exercises exist to increase and improve muscle strength in elderly adults. One treatment, called progressive resistance training, was recently studied by the American Medical Directors Association and published in the November issue of its journal. Progressive resistance training involves exercises that are performed against an external, opposing force that increases as muscle strength increases. The study proved that this type of exercise is effective in improving muscle strength in elderly adults.
It is important to ensure that your loved one’s skilled nursing facility is not only providing treatments and exercises to prevent loss in muscle strength, but also preventing avoidable injuries, such as falls. Although exercises can improve muscle strength, a gradual decline in strength is, unfortunately, sometimes inevitable in elderly adults. It is therefore the responsibility of the skilled nursing facility to prevent falls from occurring. The key to preventing falls is to draft an individualized care plan for each resident. More importantly, nurses must abide by this care plan in their daily caretaking. However, nursing homes are often understaffed, which makes it difficult for nurses to carry out care plans. Unfortunately, therefore, preventable falls occur much too often in nursing homes.
Sometimes, skilled nursing facilities utilize physical restraints, in order to reduce the risk of falls. However, recent studies have shown that the use of restraints, over time, does not effectively decrease the rate of falls in nursing homes.
Furthermore, the use of physical restraints can lead to an array of health problems, such as pressure sores, incontinence, and depression. It is also a direct violation of Patients’ Rights, which state that restraints may only be used for medical purposes, and even under such circumstances, patients may refuse treatment.
Because falls are avoidable through proper prevention techniques, it is completely inexcusable that falls occur so often in nursing homes. If your loved one has suffered injuries from a fall that eventually led to death, you may be able to make a Wrongful Death claim. Such claims are warranted when a nursing home’s neglect is directly responsible for a resident’s death.
Nursing homes must encourage residents to partake in activities and exercises to increase their muscle strength. Although progressive resistance training has proven effective, elderly adults still remain at a high risk for falls. Therefore, skilled nursing facilities must also take precautions to lower the risk of falls.
If you feel that your loved one’s nursing home is not effectively preventing falls, or is improperly restraining your loved one, contact us today to see how we can help.