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Is it normal for my parent to fall in a nursing home?

The news is grim when it comes to falls and the elderly. In fact, the National Council on Aging reports that "Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs."

Falls are so commonplace that if your parent falls in the nursing home, you may think this is normal. It should not be.

Nursing home versus house

A nursing home should be much safer than the house or apartment where your parent lived before. For example, one reason you hear about so many elderly people falling is that they have hazards such as rugs and cords on the floor at home. They may also try to walk up or down stairs and fall. Home hazards aside, the medications elderly people are on can result in dizziness and poor balance, dangerous conditions where there is not a lot of supervision.

Nursing homes, on the other hand, should be safe places that minimize or eliminate falling hazards such as cords and puddles. There are many medical staffers around to supervise people who are frail or on medications. Staffers can assist elderly people who cannot walk independently.

Falls in nursing homes

However, too many falls still occur in nursing homes. Many facilities do not have adequate staff, and residents lack supervision. Even those nursing homes that do have enough staff may not do fall risk assessments, and they might take only the most superficial of glances at why a resident falls. A well-done root cause analysis dives deep, looking at the many reasons why a resident fell and using that information to prevent future falls. Even a seemingly simple change such as getting a different wheelchair for a tall resident with dementia can make the difference in preventing falls.

If your parent falls in the nursing home, it is not necessarily a sign of negligence or abuse. However, there is no denying that your mother or father should be safer in a nursing home than at home.

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