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Care home residents at highest risk from falls


People in residential and nursing care homes are at a ‘higher risk’ of fracturing a bone after suffering a fall than any other patient group, a university team has found.

According to research conducted by the University of Derby, those aged over 65 who are currently in residential care account for 20% of all patients who are treated for fractures after having a fall, despite making up only 4.5% of the entire UK population.

The team studied 3,700 vulnerable people living in Gloucestershire and found that 42% of them had suffered a fall in the past year, while 1,077 elderly people had suffered multiple falls.

Dr Jonathan Bayly, a visiting fellow at the University of Derby, said: “4.5% of the UK population over age 65 live in residential care, yet 20% of the people who suffer a fracture from a fall come from this setting, making them the highest risk group of patients when it comes to falls.

“What is encouraging is that following the study, many GPs in the area have agreed to review the recommendations made and consider appropriate changes in prescribing practice.”

The findings have raised concerns over the diets of many elderly and vulnerable people currently in care homes after it was found that many residents were suffering from a lack of calcium and vitamin D, which aid bone and muscle strength.


Readers' comments (4)

  • This is a very interesting article and, I believe of extreme importance. The last paragraph states that there is concern over the diets of people currently in care homes.

    I would like to add my observation from a professional and personal perspective.

    Residents in some care homes have little opportunity to be outside in warmer weather thus boosting their levels of vitamin D which in turn can result in vitamin D deficiency. The symptoms of this deficiency include:
    Pain and proximal muscle weakness
    Muscular aches and weakness
    Low bone density

    All of the above can and will be responsible for falls and fractures.

    Before looking at expensive solutions to this problem why don't we encourage care homes around the country to ensure that all residents are given exposure to sunlight when possible?

    I refer you to a useful paper published in the British Medical Journal 16th January 2010 by Simon Pearce and Tim Cheetham.

    Tish Chalmers
    Researcher and volunteer in care home.

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  • Ronald Luton-Brown

    I read some research somewhere that reccommended at least 15 minutes outside every day for residents as a minimum to keep up Vit D levels Might make a difference?

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  • I have to admit to not having read the research, but l am not surprised at what they have found. As long ago as 1974 Dr Alex Baker Consultant Psychiatrist at Coney Hill Hospital Gloucester, recognised the risk to elderley people who in those days were admitted to Psychiatric elderly care wards.

    He found that there was a high risk of falls in Hospitals within the first few days of admission, he put this down to the disorientation that patients, especially those with a dementia illness, experienced after they were taken out of the familiar surroundings and support mechanism in their own homes.

    Whilst good diet and sunshine are key elements in reducing the trauma involved after a fall, we also need to examine the physical environment of Residential and Nursing Homes as well to ensure that we reduce the hazards that exist particularly in the older buildings.

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  • many care homes in the UK are not purpose built and many are old houses which have been converted. These very often do not provide a safe and comfortable physical environment for elderly where falls and fractures can be prevented and are often totally unsuited for the elderly. lack of supervision, poor nutrition, inadequate diet and hydration, misuse of medication, inappropriate furnishings are amongst the other multifaceted contributing factors.

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