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Research Finds Falls Among Elderly a Common But Preventable Risk

The risk of falling is one of the most common dangers of growing older. It’s also among the most serious – the average lifespan of an elderly patient after a hip-breaking fall is just over one year. Nursing home patients are at increased risk for falling due to reduced physical capacity in muscles and skeletal structure, impaired balance, confusion and reduced reaction time.

According to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1,800 people die from nursing home falls every year. Of the non-fatal falls, as many as 20 percent result in serious injuries that increase disability, compromise function and reduce quality of life. 

There is a rich body of study and best practice for nursing homes to prevent falls among their patients. A 2006 review by the Alzheimer’s Association identified several successful techniques:

  • Individual interventions, including alarms or observation, of the patients most likely to fall.
  • Comprehensive staff training coupled with a “fall specialist” on each shift at the nursing home.
  • Exercise programs designed to mitigate the physical factors that increase fall risk.
  • Careful attention to side effects of medication – especially in cases of polypharmia (using multiple medications) that might increase the risk of falling.
  • Facilities designed to reduce the risk of falls, and to minimize the potential injury when falls occur.

 The study also found a disturbingly high number of nursing homes with a fall prevention policy, where staff routinely failed to comply with the practices. Staff supervision and training is a key part of fall safety in an elder care environment.

The response of elder care staff to a fall can be as important as fall prevention in reducing the harm from that fall. Injury treatment and prevention of greater injury by moving a hurt resident are parts of all successful fall prevention policies.

Falling down, and injuries or deaths from those falls, is an inevitable occurrence even in the best-run nursing homes. However, if a fall resulted from negligence or an unsafe environment in that home, a nursing home neglect lawyer can hold the negligent staff and facility responsible.

Our team of elder neglect lawyers at Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. represent families throughout the State of Michigan, with a state-wide reputation for excellent preparation that results in successful cases. Contact our personal injury law firm for more information about falls in nursing homes and how to tell if a facility is as safe as it needs to be.

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