One of the biggest differences between a risk facing a senior and one facing a healthy younger adult relate to falls. The fact is that many seniors have vulnerable bodies which mean even a short fall can wreak serious damage for an elderly person that would be nothing more than a temporary blip for a younger person. Obviously understanding these risks is crucial to providing proper long-term care–front line workers must act efficiently to limit even the most limited tumbles.
My Elder Care advocate recently published an extensive story of these incidents which provides a helpful summary of the issue.
The Scope of the Nursing Home Fall Problem
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 1,800 individual die each and every year as a result of falls in nursing homes. Ten of thousands of others suffer serious injuries that significantly lower their quality of life for their remaining years.
Sadly, nursing homes seem to be a location where senior falls are most likely to occur. According to the article, while about 5% of adults over 65 live in one of these facilities, the homes accounts for about 20% of falls among those over 65. That means that the average facility–with about 100 beds–comes with anywhere from 100 to 200 falls. The exact numbers are hard to identify, because most of those falls are unreported. Put another way, the best estimates suggest that anywhere from 50-75% of all nursing home resident fall every single year, though some patients fall more than once in a single year.
No matter which way you slice it though, these numbers are incredibly high. The lawyers at our firm urge all those in Chicago and throughout Illinois who have friends and family members in these facilities to be vigilant about fall risks and signs of injury which might indicate that a fall happened and was not reported.
Nursing Home Fall Injuries
When not fatal, many seniors will suffer broken bones. About 2-6% of all falls lead to fractures. But it is important not to think of broken bones in the tame sense–like that affecting a young child who falls out of a tree and is back to normal immediately after the cast comes off. For seniors, a broken bone can change their life forever.
Also, it is important not to underestimate the mental and emotional effect of worrying about falls. As the report indicates, “fear of falling can cause further loss of function, depression, feelings of helplessness, and social isolation.”
Preventing Nursing Home Falls
Most agree that preventing these incidents begins with direct-line care workers. These caregivers are the ones who watch residents residents day in and day out to ensure they do not get themselves into risky situations. They also help with transfers to wheelchairs, movements in the bathroom, and other situations where fall risks are heightened. All of this means that caregivers must be properly trained to understand the safest maneuvers in each situation. In addition, the training is of little help if there simply is not enough care workers–understaffing remains a persistent problem.
Other factors to prevent these falls include: proper facility maintenance to limit fall hazards, proper use of medication to prevent dizziness, proper nutrition to keep seniors strength, and limitation of physical neglect that contributes to bodily breakdown.
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