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Falls - A common cause of nursing home injury

The fact that residents in nursing homes in Bexar County, Texas and elsewhere throughout the United States fall more frequently than do older adults should not come as a surprise. The physical and mental conditions that make it necessary for older individuals to seek the care they can receive in a nursing home also attribute to an increased propensity toward falling.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 1.4 million people reside in nursing homes. It is estimated that 50 to 75 percent of them will fall each year. Only half as many falls occur among the general population of older Americans who are not residing in nursing homes. Nursing home residents who fall usually do so more than once each year. 

Preventing residents in nursing homes from falling is not an easy task. Surprisingly, 35 percent of the people who fall did so even though they care not capable of walking. Some of the common causes of falls in older residents of nursing homes include:

  • Moving from one place to another such as transferring from a bed to a wheelchair
  • Hazards such as wet floors or poor lighting
  • Muscle weakness and unsteady gait when walking
  • Poorly fitted shoes

Because some of the causes of patient injuries in nursing homes can be attributed to medical conditions, prevention requires a coordinated effort by medical staff, physical therapy and rehabilitation staff, and changes to the environment in which the residents live. Programs that review risk factors within the facility and medical reviews of patient medications to eliminate those that could cause the person taking them to become dizzy are two methods for reducing the risk of falls.

The consequences of a personal injury from a nursing home fall can be devastating. Besides long-term disability and the psychological and physical effects of a fear of falling, 1,800 people die each year from the effects of falling in nursing homes.

A person suffering from a nursing home injury may be entitled to sue the facility at which they reside for negligence in failing to prevent a fall from happening.  A medical malpractice claim might exist against a doctor for failing to monitor a patient's reactions to a medication that causes a fall to occur.

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