The incidence of injuries occurring at nursing facilities is a growing concern. While only about 5% of the elderly population resides at nursing homes, about 20% of the falls in the elderly and accidents involving the elderly occur in these homes.
How Dangerous are Nursing Facility Injuries?
Older people in nursing facilities sustain injuries at a higher rate than the general elderly population.
A reason for this is the fact that the nursing home population is older overall, are more likely to be sick or more physically frail when compared to the general population of the elderly. This difference in the population of the elderly does not completely account for the discrepancies in the incidence of injuries, though.
Important statistics about injuries in nursing homes help us understand the problem further.
Notable statistics include:
- Each year, about a quarter of all nursing homes receive a citation for seriously injuring a resident or contributing to their death
- About 5,000 deaths per year are due to cases of nursing home neglect that result in injuries
- About 10 percent of all nursing home residents suffer from some degree of bedsores
- Nursing home residents have twice the risk of falling when compared to other elderly people
Why Do Nursing Home Injuries Occur?
There are a variety of reasons why injuries happen at a greater rate in nursing homes. Because this is a population that is less mobile and frailer than other elderly people, they are more likely to sustain injuries. About 25% of these injuries are due to muscle weakness and problems with walking and movement.
Nursing home residents are also more likely to experience medication errors with substances that are likely to be sedating, cause dizziness, or impair their judgment. Patients who are taking antipsychotic medication, sedatives, and anxiety medications have a greater risk of suffering from some form of accident.
Up to as 27% of all accidents in nursing homes are the result of physical obstacles located in the rooms and hallways of the facility.
This can include things like:
- Insufficient lighting
- Narrow stairs
- Slippery floors
- Stray objects placed in the hallway
These are obstacles that make moving around safely more problematic for elderly and unbalanced nursing home residents.
Another notable cause of injuries includes the inattention of the nurses, certified nursing assistants, and other staff members at the nursing home. A large number of nursing facilities are dangerously understaffed.
With an insufficient number of staff members, the facilities have to struggle to adequately keep patients safe and make sure that the physical environment is as safe as possible.
How Can These Types of Injuries Be Prevented?
Nursing home injuries may be prevented if the staff at the facility remains vigilant and works on a consistent basis to improve the health and safety of each nursing home resident and improve the safety of the physical space.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has weighed in on the subject and recommends that nursing facilities take on a multifaceted approach to reduce the number of accidents and injuries.
Actions nursing home can take to prevent injuries include:
- Assessing each nursing home resident individually and addressing their chances of sustaining any type of injury
- Educating of staff members regarding patient risks and strategies to prevent accidents from occurring
- Encouraging residents to join exercise programs
- Minimizing the use of sedative medications that are most likely to lead to injury
- Providing consistent checks to prevent overmedication of residents
- Putting safety features in place to make the facility easier to navigate
- Removing room and hallway hazards
- Supplementing the residents with vitamin D in order to improve their mobility
By taking part in these steps and implementing other safety rules, a nursing home will be able to reduce the number of injuries that residents suffer.
Another way of reducing injury involves hiring well-trained staff members. With more quality medical professionals working at the nursing home, residents can be given more care and individual attention.
Greater numbers of health professionals can:
- Ensure that patients are turned in bed more frequently to prevent bed sores
- Reassess the mobility issues and safety problems of the residents on a more consistent basis
- Monitor the residents’ mental health, physical health, and medications