Fun versus frailty in our nursing homes

Where do you draw the line between allowing fun activities for nursing home residents and protecting them injury or even premature death?

The question is being asked after a major study found more than 80 per cent of injury related or premature deaths of nursing home residents are from falls.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that between 2000 and 2012, there were 1296 deaths in Victoria and 89 per cent of them were caused by falls.

Led by Professor Joseph Ibrahim from Monash University and the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, the study also found that seven per cent of deaths were from choking, 1.3 per cent were suicides, 0.6 per cent were from complications in clinical care and 0.5 per cent were by resident to resident assault.

There are more than 186,000 residents living in an estimated 2700 nursing homes in Australia.

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“While the very reason for older people being in these facilities, such as physical frailty and the presence of dementia means that they are at greater risk of death from external causes (injury), there has been, until now, no information about deaths in nursing homes that may be premature or preventable,” Professor Ibrahim said.

“Globally there are 841 million people aged 60 and over and this will increase to 2 billion by 2050. An ageing population means that improved care of older citizens is a priority”.

The study’s author called for a debate over whether nursing home residents may choose activities that enhance their quality of life but increase the potential of harm or death, particularly from falls or choking.

“While the study has shown that preventable harm occurs in nursing homes, there must be balance between protecting residents from harm impacts and their quality of life, he said.


Do you agree? Perhaps you have parents in a nursing home. Where is the balance between protecting nursing home residents from potentially harmful activities and providing a good quality of life?