Each year, thousands of elderly people in New Mexico are admitted to emergency departments after suffering injuries due to falls. In fact, New Mexico’s rate of fall-related deaths has been 1.5 times higher in recent years than the national rate.
In New Mexico and nationwide, falls are the leading cause of accidental injury death for people aged 65 and older. Another fact: among older adults, most fatal fall-related injuries are traumatic brain injuries and hip fractures.
Many nursing home patients suffer subsequent adverse events after the first fall
According to the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), “Between 36% and 50% of patients have an adverse event, such as a recurrent fall, emergency department revisit, or death within 1 year after a fall.”
This statistic underscores the importance of careful monitoring of patients in nursing home facilities. When a patient has already fallen or seems more likely to fall, the nursing home staff should monitor accordingly.
NMDOH also points out that many elderly adults who fall may become more sedentary because they fear falling again. This in turn raises the risk of a secondary fall. However, it should be remembered that proper nursing home care involves helping patients move about so that they don’t become sedentary or develop other health problems, such as pressure ulcers. Nursing home patients who get a reasonable amount of exercise may be less likely to suffer a fall, including secondary falls.
New Mexico has taken steps in recent years to address the risk of falls in nursing homes
In response to the alarming number of falls among the elderly, NMDOH established an Older Adult Falls Task Force in 2013. In addition to implementing fall-prevention strategies in communities throughout the state, the task force also mandated reporting of all falls that result in fractures.
Other fall-prevention strategies include elder-friendly exercise and self-care programs, such as “Tai Chi for Arthritis” and “Otago,” which are overseen by certified instructors.
NMDOH states, “Most falls are preventable and not a normal part of aging.” With that in mind, families need to be aware of their legal options when serious injuries and illnesses happen in an elder care facility. Often there are steps that families can take to get their elder loved one the care he or she needs, and there are steps that families can take to help prevent injuries in the future.