5 leading causes of falls in nursing homes

If a loved one can no longer care for themselves, California families often turn to a nursing home or assisted living facility, believing that it will be a safer environment. These facilities know that one of the most significant risks to their residents is falling but don’t take adequate steps to protect them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 50% to 75% of nursing home residents suffer falls each year. Nearly two out of 10 receive severe injuries, and close to 1,800 residents die. About a third of those injured were unable to walk when the incident occurred.

Most nursing home falls are avoidable

These disturbing CDC statistics are even more tragic, given that many of these injuries and deaths are preventable. Here are five common reasons why nursing home falls occur:

  1. Drugs: Residents often receive tranquilizers, antipsychotics and other drugs to calm them. However, these medications can cause confusion and balance issues.
  2. Staffing: Nursing homes often have patient-to-caregiver ratios of 30-to-1 or higher. Residents who fall, especially at night, may not receive immediate help.
  3. Equipment: Many nursing home beds do not have rails or safety bumpers, making it easier for residents to fall.
  4. Health: Patients with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological illnesses are often unsteady on their feet and can easily become dizzy upon standing.
  5. Lack of planning: Many nursing homes don’t draft a comprehensive plan to prevent falls. Many safety steps are available, including bed alarms, improved lighting, fall mats and keeping rooms and hallways uncluttered.

Why do so many facilities fail to provide safe environments?

California is one of a few states with rules in place over staffing, requiring a minimum of 3.5 hours of direct care per patient per day in skilled nursing homes. However, some facilities are exempt, some falsify staffing records, and critics point to a lack of oversight by the state enforcing the rules.