Big rise in number of elderly people falling over in nursing homes  

Louise Hall Health Reporter
March 4, 2009
Sydney Morning Herald

THE number of frail, elderly residents admitted to hospital after a fall in a nursing home or other aged care facility has significantly increased, putting further pressure on beds in the public system, a report has found.

Figures published yesterday show that for those aged 65 and above, the number of falls in residential homes was more than five times the number of falls of those living in the community, including in their own home.

Bob Cumming, Professor of Epidemiology and Geriatric Medicine at the University of Sydney, said that while a fall was often the catalyst for older people to enter aged care, it was no guarantee against injury.

"If older people are put into a nursing home by their kids, they can't think it is going to prevent their parents falling and breaking bones," he said.

Professor Cumming said a concerted effort to reduce falls in hospitals had not translated to improved prevention in aged care, but the introduction of better lighting, higher staffing levels and reduced use of psychotropic medication could help.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report said the higher rate of falls in aged care facilities was primarily because those residents tended to have much higher care needs and were more likely to be frail.

The chief executive of the Aged Care Association Australia, Rod Young, said a recent push towards getting residents out of bed and walking around was also contributing to the rate of fall injury cases increasing from 6404.3 per 100,000 in 2003-04 to 7237.5 per 100,000 in 2005-06.

Fall-related injuries cost the health system more than any other trauma, including road accidents, and the total financial cost is estimated to exceed $1 billion a year.

The report found the number of people aged 65 and over admitted to hospital following falls increased by 10 per cent in the two years to 2006 to 66,800.

Simple trips and slips on level ground were the most common type of fall, and falls at home were often on stairs. Men had a higher proportion of falls from ladders, buildings, trees and cliffs.

Almost 65 per cent of in-patients had at least one broken bone, and the mean length of stay was more than 16 days, bringing the total bed days to more than 1 million a year.