Study Finds 21% of Short-Stay Patients in Nursing Homes Will Sustain Falls

360px-Walker_extended.JPGA nationwide study, led by a researcher at the University of Southern California, recently reviewed the rates of falls among short-stay nursing home residents. This was the first major study to analyze falls among newly admitted patients. Numerous studies have reviewed fall rates among long-term nursing home residents, and those risks are generally well understood. The study’s findings may help nursing home administrators and staff identify short-term patients who are at greater risk for falls and help take precautions to protect them from injury. Putting staff on notice of important risks faced by residents is an important step in preventing nursing home negligence and keeping residents safe.

The study, which was published in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, focused on Medicare or Medicaid patients during their very first nursing home admission. Researchers analyzed clinical assessments prepared by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as Minimum Data Sets (MDS), from 2006 for over 230,000 individuals residing in more than 10,000 nursing homes located around the U.S. The MDS assessments provide a comprehensive overview of a patient’s “functional capabilities” in order to assist nursing homes in determining a patient’s needs. The study also looked at how different nursing homes are organized, with particular attention to the professional composition of the homes’ nursing staffs.

During the first thirty days in a facility, the study found, twenty-one percent of new nursing home residents will sustain at least one fall. This is critically important because falls are associated with greater risks of health complications and death, even among short-stay residents. The study proposes several possible causes for the increased fall risk. Nursing homes with high ratios of certified nursing assistants (CNA’s) to patients appeared to have a lower risk of falls. This suggests that the “hands-on patient care during high-risk activities” offered by CNA’s reduces the risk of falls.

Short-stay residents may suffer a higher risk of falls simply by virtue of having spent a short time in a facility. The residents have little familiarity with the environment, and staff members may not know the residents well enough to know or manage their fall risk. Differences in treatment between short- and long-term residents may also account for some of the risk to short-stay residents. Short-term residents who are in the nursing home for rehabilitation after surgery, or for some other limited-term treatment goal, may nevertheless need the same safeguards against falls as long-term residents. The presence of staff members who can provide individualized attention to short-term residents may be key to minimizing fall risks.

Nursing home administrators, nurses, and staffers have a legal duty to provide competent care for all residents, both short- and long-stay. This includes taking reasonable precautions against known risks, as well as accurately assessing each resident to identify those risks. It also includes monitoring residents where necessary to either prevent falls or quickly respond when they do occur. While many falls are purely accidental, a failure to perform any of these duties may entitle a resident who sustains a fall to claim damage from the nursing home.

The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen help obtain compensation for people injured due to abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Fined After Staffers Failed to Help Resident Who Fell Down for Nearly an Hour, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, May 29, 2012
Jury Awards $200 Million in Nursing Home Wrongful Death Case Where Defense Did Not Show Up, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2012
Physical and Verbal Abuse, Fall-related Injuries Investigated in New York Nursing Homes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, August 15, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Walker extended’ by BrokenSphere (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Contact Information