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Falls often lead to injuries and nursing home deaths

To many Pennsylvanians, falls are just minor accidents. After a slip or a fall, a person often simply stands up and brushes the incident off. It may even come with a hearty laugh. However, falls are no laughing matter when it comes to the elderly in a nursing home. A simple fall can result in a nursing home death or injury to a resident. With the number of nursing home residents expected to increase to three million by 2030, safety should be a priority.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of fall-related deaths of people aged 65 and older occur in nursing homes. Annually, a 100-bed capacity nursing home reports between 100 to 200 falls. However, there are also falls that are not reported. The more disturbing statistic is that many residents fall more than once. On average, annually, nursing home residents fall 2.6 times. Every year, just under 2,000 residents lose their lives in a nursing home. Additionally, approximately 10 to 20 percent of falls result in serious injuries.

The CDC notes that the residents' health plays a part in the cause of the falls. Walking problems and weakness of muscles account for 24 percent of falls in nursing homes. However, approximately 16 to 27 percent of falls are due to hazards within the facility itself. Poor lighting, wet floors, using defective wheelchairs and inappropriate bed lighting also contribute greatly to falls.

Because of the risk of injury and death, it is important to prevent falls. Besides giving residents correct medication and close supervision, the nursing home staff in Pennsylvania should be well trained about fall risks and prevention. The environment should also be safe so that residents can move without the fear of falling or slipping despite their conditions. Hallway handrails, grab bars and the correct bed height can help to prevent falls as well. Otherwise, a nursing home can be held liable for injuries and deaths.

Source: CDC.gov, "Falls in Nursing Homes," accessed on Aug. 20, 2014

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