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How Can Florida Nursing Home Falls Be Prevented?

We've previously discussed the troubling issue of nursing home abuse and neglect. However, not all dangers to nursing home residents can easily be linked to the facility or staff. For example, falls are a significant cause of injuries and deaths in nursing homes.

Every year, about 1,800 people die from injuries suffered in these falls. Those who survive may be left with fractures, permanently disabilities and increased anxiety and depression that can reduce their quality of life.

While about 5 percent of people at least 65 years-old live in nursing homes, 20 percent of fatal senior falls occur there. It's been estimated that as many as 75 percent of all nursing home residents have fallen. Over a third of those don't even walk. It's hard to know the true numbers, because many falls are never reported.

Why do so many nursing home residents fall? Age and health are two big factors. Most are seniors and many have conditions like arthritis that make walking a challenge. A number have other medical problems that make them frail. Medications may also impact their balance and awareness of their surroundings. Conditions like Alzheimer's that impact cognitive abilities may also contribute to falls.

Given all of the factors that increase the likelihood of nursing home falls, those who manage and work in these facilities have an obligation to do everything in their power to minimize falls and their ramifications. For example:

  • Keep a close eye on patients when their medication changes, particularly with anti-anxiety drugs or sedatives.-- Ensure that wheelchairs, walkers, canes and even footwear are properly fitted, used and maintained.-- Keep beds at the appropriate height.
  • Ensure that the facility has accessibility features like handrails, bedrails, raised toilet seats and grab bars in the bathrooms and bathing areas.
  • Teach residents, if their cognitive ability allows, how to take precautions to prevent falls.

Proper care and close observation after a fall accident are also essential. Even residents who are not seriously injured should be examined by a medical professional to help ensure that there is no undiagnosed underlying condition that contributed to the fall.

If you know or believe that a loved one was injured or killed as the result of a Florida nursing home fall, it may be wise to seek legal guidance to determine whether the facility could have reasonably prevented it or at least mitigated the consequences.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Falls in Nursing Homes," accessed May. 13, 2015

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