Many causes of nursing home falls are preventable

One of the reasons many people feel a sense of relief when an elderly loved one moves into a nursing home or other long-term care facility is that they believe that they're safer there than in their own home. One of the dangers for older people who live alone is falling. Falls can be extremely serious for older people. Sometimes, they're even fatal.

However, nursing home residents suffer from falls, too. These facilities should be designed to minimize the risk of falls, and staff should be trained to watch residents and help them move safely. Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 50% and 75% of nursing home residents fall every year. About 1,800 people die every year as the result of falls in nursing homes.

Some factors that lead to falls are related to a resident's condition. For example, some medical conditions, like Parkinson's, can impact a person's balance and gait. Some conditions can cause weakness or dizziness.

Many medications that are given to people in these facilities can lead to balance issues and confusion. Tranquilizers and antipsychotics are two of those. Not all medications dispensed in nursing homes are necessary for a resident's health and well-being. Unfortunately, sometimes they're given to control and calm residents, so they're easier to manage.

In other situations, falls result from a lack of appropriate equipment or proper use of that equipment. For example, beds should have railings and safety bumpers.

Too often, facilities are understaffed. One person may be responsible for watching dozens of patients. They can't possibly properly attend to everyone who needs to use the restroom or wants to take a walk. Too often, residents try to do these things on their own and fall as a result.

All facilities should have a fall prevention plan that addresses all of these issues. It should also ensure that there's sufficient lighting and that the floors are free of clutter and tripping hazards.

If you're looking at nursing homes for a loved one, ask about their fall prevention plan and how they deal with falls. Is the resident fully examined after even a seemingly minor fall?

If a loved one is injured or worse due to a nursing home fall that you believe was preventable, find out what your options are for holding the facility responsible.

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