Fun versus frailty in our nursing homes 17



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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.

“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?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. People choke at home too.
    Need to educate junior staff and carers of the danger feeding someone who has had a stroke. A speech therapist or RN would advise.
    Falls happen at home too and a nursing home is another home.
    However, spills cause slippery floors and trip hazards are steps and rugs!
    Nursing homes watch for those.
    Strength training helps for the more active patient to keep legs stronger but there comes a time when the body and the mind gives up.
    It’s called dying. & it’s sad but it’s okay.

  2. This makes me laugh, premature death? If they are going on 86 like my mother at what age is not premature death? They want us to survive until our heart stops beating, no matter if you are a vegetable & can do nothing for yourself, like if you were paralysed and someone had to do everything for you. Or if you are in chronic pain and absolutely no quality of life.
    From visits to my mothers nursing home there are many in the high care section where she is as she has dimentia (she can still dress & feed hrself at the moment) but others can do nothing for themselves, can’t even feed themselves or dress themselves and they are surviving, this is not a life.
    I DREAD having to go to a nursing home and she has a great one. Hopefully Euthenasia will be in by that time. As for fun activities, yes absolutely, most of the people in high care do nothing all day but stay in their wheelchair seat in front of the tv as they can’t do anything. While they have their faculties about them let them have some fun. People are just too afraid of being sued if they hurt themselves.

    1 REPLY
    • Poor staff:patient ratios & fear of litigation cause the apparent lack of activities. If there was sufficient staff in nursing homes & plenty of variety in activities…. It would not be such a daunting prospect.

  3. Way to go would be to sell the house, spend the money on the holiday of a lifetime then do a Thelma and Louise, Biggest fear in life is that nursing home , so many negative stories enen from the staff working in them

  4. Where can I get one of those pedal frame things from?

    2 REPLY
    • It is an exerciser which helps keep your circulation going. You might have to ask Mrs Google for help finding one. I may have seen them in an Innovations catalogue.
      Good luck.

    • Marjorie. I bought mine from Aldi in NSW. For a couple of months now it has been with my mother in her nursing home and she is pedalling several times a week. At 98 there isn’t much hope of her walking again, but she has decided she wants to, so I took it there for her to try and build her leg muscles again. (with nursing staff permission, which they gladly gave.)

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