Falls are becoming an increasingly prevalent problem in today’s skilled nursing facilities. Because the consequences of fall-related injuries are so detrimental to the health of elder adults and the costs associated with treating these injuries are so high, many recent studies have focused on fall prevention techniques. Many of these techniques center on improving the muscle strength of patients, since cardiovascular deterioration is one cause of falls in the elderly population.
The 2012 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging recently published an article titled “Physical Function Predicts Improvement in Quality of Life in Elderly Icelanders after 12 Weeks of Resistance Exercise.” The study reinforces the benefits of resistance training in elderly adults, while discovering some additional advantages that this new treatment has to offer. Before progressing with the study, however, the article outlines the underlying causes of the decline in muscle strength that is experienced by all elderly adults.
Although a weakening of muscles is inherent with old age, especially after the age of sixty, certain factors can accelerate this condition. One of the most basic causes is malnutrition. Because the body receives its energy and strength from nutrients that are in food, it is very important that your loved one is receiving nutritional meals at his or her skilled nursing facility. However, even in nursing homes with the healthiest meals, malnutrition is a likely possibility in understaffed facilities. In choosing a home for your loved one, we advise that you visit at various times throughout the day, as there is often a discrepancy between the staffing levels of different shifts. As it is one of the busiest and most hectic times of the day, it is crucial for you to ensure that your loved one’s facility is employing an adequate level of staff during mealtimes.
Another cause of muscle deterioration is inactivity, which is the area studied by the article. The study proposes the use of resistance training, in which participants perform exercises against an opposing force. As muscle strength improves, the opposing force is increased. While some studies have already proven that resistance exercises improve muscle strength, this study focuses on the effect of this treatment on overall health-related quality of life.
With 204 participants, the study proceeded by enrolling each individual into resistance training classes. The study was conducted over a period of twelve weeks. For three nonconsecutive days of each week, the participants attended their resistance exercise classes in groups of twenty to thirty. Three sets of exercises were repeated six to eight times and increased by five to ten percent each week. Over the course of the study, some tests, such as a walk that recorded the distance that the participant could walk in six minutes, were used to measure improvements in muscle strength.
Health-related quality of life was determined by a questionnaire that inquired about both psychological and physical functions, including functional status, vitality, social function, physical pain, emotions, general health, and mental health. The results of the study show that resistance training does more than simply improve the muscle strength of elderly adults. Overall, participants experienced an increase in health-related quality of life. This included improvements in mental health, such as an alleviation of mild depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms.
While most nursing homes install railings in hallways to prevent falls and call buttons in case falls do happen, rehabilitation exercises are often overlooked as fall prevention techniques. However, these exercises are actually very effective in preventing falls because they directly address the loss of muscle strength experienced by the elderly that is one of the fundamental contributing causes of falls.
If your loved one’s nursing home is failing to provide any of the precautions discussed above that decrease the likelihood of falls, the facility may be guilty of nursing home neglect. Contact us today so that we can help attain the rights to which your loved one is entitled.