Falls resulting in fractures or head injuries frequently occur in long-term care facilities and are the leading cause of accidental deaths among the elderly. After falling, the elderly usually suffer from reduced mobility and fractures that can even warrant hospitalization.
Residents who break their hips (90 percent of which are due to falls) have a higher mortality rate in their first six months of stay than other residents. Falls resulting in head injuries can cause severe changes in mental status that can require a CT scan or MRI over a 72 hour monitoring period.
Risk factors for nursing home falls include:
- Bowel or bladder incontinence
- Central nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia (impairment of mental abilities) and others
- History of falls
- Low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) when standing up
- Problems with mobility and gait
- Use of restraints
- Visual impairment
Nursing homes should complete appropriate risk assessments for falls to prevent repeated falls, fractures and even death. If a resident is at risk for falls, nursing homes must take preventive measures, including: using a low bed, Lap Buddy and/or incline cushion for wheelchair safety, side rails on the bed, mat on the floor or a restraint-free alarm.