Research recently published in The Medical Journal of Australia found that deaths due to injury or violence (“external causes”) in Australian nursing homes increased from 1.2 per 1,000 admissions from 2001 to 2002 to 5.3 per 1,000 admissions in 2011 to 2012, which represents an increase of more than 400% in premature nursing home deaths.
The researchers analyzed 21,672 Australian nursing home deaths, of which 3,289 (15.2%) were the result of “external causes” (i.e., due to injury or violence). Deaths due to falls accounted for 2,679 (81.5%) of the cases. Choking caused 261 deaths (7.9%). Suicide was the cause of death in 146 (4.4%) of the cases.
The researchers determined that 60.8% of the external causes nursing home deaths in 2001 involved women, which was consistent with the proportion of women in Australian nursing homes. The median age for external causes nursing home deaths for women was 88. The median age for external causes nursing home deaths for men was 86. Most external causes deaths (1,742, 53.0%) involved Australian nursing home residents between the ages of 85 and 94.
The researchers determined that 1,533 (nearly 60%) of fall-related deaths involved residents between the ages of 85 and 94, which proportion was similar for deaths caused by choking, transport, asphyxia, and other types of incidents.
The researchers found that 3,067 (93.3%) of the deaths caused by external causes were unintentional; intentional injuries were involved in 183 (5.6%) of the deaths caused by external causes. Complications of clinical care were involved in 39 (1.2%) of the deaths caused by external causes.
Of the intentional deaths, the largest proportion of deaths involving suicide (55 cases, 38%) and consequences of resident-on-resident assaults (14 cases, 41%) were for Australian nursing home residents between the ages 75 and 84. Seventy percent (103 cases) of suicide deaths were by men. Three homicide deaths (two were men) involved nursing home residents between the ages of 75 and 84. More women than men died as a result of resident-on-resident assault (22 cases, 65% of the cases).
Most of the nursing home deaths due to external causes occurred outside of the nursing home (2,207 cases, 67.1%), usually in a hospital.
Greater than 98% of the nursing home deaths caused by external causes involved permanent nursing home residents (3,230 cases, 98.2%).
The researchers concluded, “The increase in the incidence of external cause deaths during the study period was prominent. This is partly attributable to improved coronial advisory systems and better understanding of what constitutes a reportable death, as well as removal of the requirement in some jurisdictions to report all natural cause nursing home deaths … Our data challenge the misperception that all deaths of frail, older persons with multiple comorbidities living in residential care are natural. Effective planning for high quality aged care requires accurate data about preventable harm, as well as acknowledging that negatively value-laden judgements about the worth of an older person’s life do not justify inaction.”
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in the United States due to nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, or resident on resident abuse, you should promptly contact a local nursing home claim attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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