Early this morning, a female resident of a Jacksonville nursing home died after falling from her bed. The incident occurred at the Woodland Grove Health and Rehabilitation Center near Belfort Road on Jacksonville’s Southside. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident as an accident. Florida’s Agency of Healthcare Administration will also investigate the matter.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ranks all nursing homes that accept payment from Medicare on a scale of one to five stars. Overall, Woodland Grove Health and Rehabilitation Center scores three out of five stars and scores a two out of five with respect to health inspections. It is a 120 bed facility owned, in part, by Greystone Healthcare Holdings, which has 26 nursing homes in Florida, with one in Jacksonville, one in Fleming Island (Orange Park), two in Daytona Beach and one in Starke.
Falls are one of the leading causes of injury and death of nursing home residents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a typical nursing home with 100 beds will report between 100 and 200 falls per year. In addition, falls are often not reported. Between 50% to 75% of nursing home residents will experience a fall each year. Roughly 35% of falls in nursing homes involve residents who cannot walk.
Not only are falls common, the consequences can be catastrophic. Annually, approximately 1,800 people die as a result of a fall in a nursing home. Falls also cause serious life-changing injuries including arm, leg and hip fractures. The immobility that results from such a fracture can lead to functional decline that greatly shortens a person’s lifespan and diminishes his or her quality of life.
Falls in nursing homes have a host of causes including muscle weakness, cognitive problems, changes in medication, wet floors, a nursing home’s failure to provide assistance when transferring from a bed to a wheelchair or toilet, incorrect bed height and improper or missing assistive devices.
There are many ways that nursing homes can reduce the risk of falls. First and foremost, each resident must be screened for their fall risk. Residents with an increased fall risk require care plans that put in place appropriate safeguards. Some residents will require a one person or two person assistance with transfers to and from the bed and toilet. Others require assistive devices when moving around such as a cane, walker or wheelchair.
The facility itself must also be scrutinized to make sure that hand rails are in place in bathrooms, floors are level and clean and that call buttons work. Socks, slippers and shoes should have non-slip surfaces. Beds should be lowered for persons will a high fall risk and cushioned mats should be placed around the bed to minimize any injury that may occur. Bed rails or anti-roll cushions should be used for persons at risk for falling out of bed. Residents should be educated regarding common scenarios that lead to falls and how to avoid them. Finally, the residents should receive physical therapy and nutrition sufficient to keep them as strong and able as possible.