A study published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society concluded that 1 out of 5 newly admitted nursing home residents falls within one month of their admission. The study also found that the higher the levels of staffing with certified nursing assistants (CNAs), the lesser the risk of falling. The study examined data from both Medicare and Medicaid on more than 230,000 new residents admitted to approximately 10,000 nursing homes throughout the United States. 21% of those residents sustained at least 1 fall during their first 30 days in the nursing home. The authors of the study also examined risk factors that contribute to falls, and found that fewer falls occurred in those nursing homes with higher ratios of CNAs to residents.
These findings support what those of us who represent victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes have known all along; that is, almost all injuries in nursing homes can be linked to staffing. The majority of the time, problems in nursing homes can be traced to not having enough staff to adequately care for the number of residents in the facility. Other times, problems can be traced to inadequately trained staff. One explanation for fewer falls occurring in nursing homes with higher staffing ratios is the fact that CNAs provide many of the hands-on resident care during activities where the risk of falling is high, such as dressing, toileting, and generally moving around. Most nursing home residents need, at least, some assistance with these so-called activities of daily living. Often, nursing home residents will press “call” buttons to request assistance. When the staff does not respond promptly, the residents attempt to perform these tasks on their own. This can lead to falls and fall-related injuries, especially in individuals who are living in a new place and are not yet familiar with their surroundings.
Many newly admitted nursing home residents are there for short-term rehabilitation with the ultimate goal of sending them back home. A fall and resulting injury, such as a fractured hip or closed head injury, can delay or prevent altogether the resident from ever being able to return to his or her home. Falls can result in disability, functional decline, a decreased quality of life, and increased mortality. A fall or series of falls can lead to a fear of falling, which can cause more loss of function, depression and social isolation, all of which are detrimental to a person’s overall well-being.
For more information, see the publication entitled “Falls in Nursing Homes” published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a loved one has sustained a fall in a nursing home and suffered a serious injury, contact the experienced nursing home litigation attorneys at Suthers & Thompson.