MONDAY, June 25, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that one in five newly admitted nursing home patients has a fall within one month, and that higher levels of staffing with certified nursing assistants reduces the risk of patient falls.
The researchers examined Medicare/Medicaid data on more than 230,000 first-time residents admitted to nearly 10,000 nursing homes across the United States in 2006. Of those patients, 21 percent had at least one fall during their first 30 days in the facility.
The study authors also looked at potential factors that contribute to falls and found that fewer falls occurred in nursing homes with higher ratios of certified nursing assistants to patients.
This is likely because certified nursing assistants provide most of the hands-on patient care during high fall-risk activities such as dressing, using the bathroom, and moving around, said lead author Natalie Leland, a research gerontologist and occupational therapist at the University of Southern California, and colleagues.
The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Fall rates among long-term nursing home residents are well-documented, but the researchers believe this is the first study to focus on fall rates among newly admitted residents.
Identifying and managing fall risks among these residents is a challenge because these people are in a new place and are unfamiliar to staff, the study authors said.
They noted that some newly admitted nursing home residents are there for rehabilitation with the eventual goal of sending them home.
"A fall can delay or permanently prevent the patient from returning to the community, and identifying risk of falling is essential for implementing fall-prevention strategies and facilitating successful discharge back to the community," Leland said in a University of Southern California news release.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about falls in nursing homes.