The 5 Biggest Safety Hazards in Nursing Homes

Updated on March 31, 2021


Few families look forward to getting separated from their aging loved ones by moving them into a nursing home. However, this is sometimes the most practical and safest alternative to living alone or with family. For many, nursing homes are a cost-effective facility for ailing seniors.

Unfortunately, while nursing homes are supposed to be a physical, emotional and mentally safe space for seniors, safety hazards are still present. Some of the biggest safety risks in nursing homes include the following:

1. Resident Abuse

This is arguably the most preventable safety hazard in nursing homes but sadly remains a major problem. One in six people aged 60 and over has experienced abuse at a nursing home or other long-term care facility. While all forms of abuse pose grave danger to the residents of nursing homes, physical abuse is especially problematic. Elderly victims are often frail, and the abuse could trigger or exacerbate medical conditions. To make matters worse, injuries take longer to heal in elderly residents.

If you suspect a loved one has been abused at a nursing home, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. To minimize the risk of abuse, do your research beforehand. Check online to see if there has been a history of abuse complaints and ask for personal reviews. Also, find out how allegations of abuse are handled at the facility.

2. Absent or Inadequate Safety Alert System

Placing ailing seniors in long-term care facilities ensures they have someone watching over them. However, nursing home staff cannot be with each senior at all times. At some point, residents will be alone or not within the eyesight of a caregiver. During these periods, it is possible for them to experience an emergency.

Without an effective safety alert system, help may not be forthcoming as quickly as it should. Check to ensure the nursing home you opt for has a robust alert system and request a demonstration. All bathrooms must have an emergency pull string and each bed should be within easy reach of a call button.

3. Improper Lighting

Falls are the leading cause of injury in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. And one of the main reasons this happens is improper lighting in living areas that is either too bright or too dim. If residents cannot clearly see what lies ahead of them, they are in danger of tripping and falling.

The quality of lighting is something you can observe when inspecting the facility. Even better is to ask your loved one what they think about the quality of lighting in their space. Fortunately, lighting does not have to be a deal breaker. Raise the issue with the facility’s management and request adding or changing lamps.

4. Incorrect Administration of Medication

The average person’s sunset years are characterized by an ever-increasing number of medications. When an ailing senior moves into a nursing home, the administration of these medications becomes the responsibility of the home. The nursing home will not only be managing your loved one’s medication, but those of all other seniors in the facility. This creates a complexity that increases the risk of an overdose or adverse interaction.

A good nursing home will have a highly organized process for administering medication. Find out the facility’s procedure for administering drugs to residents.

5. Infections

Thousands of nursing home residents contract infections each year, and some of these are antibiotic-resistant. Common causes of infection include urinary catheters, pressure sores and contagious respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia.

Make sure the nursing home takes the risk of infections seriously and has a robust process for containing their spread. Do not visit your loved one if you are unwell. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after interacting with them and encourage others to do the same.

Everyone Has a Role

Safety in a nursing home is primarily the management’s responsibility. Still, everyone plays an important role. An organized and thoughtful onboarding and orientation process provides a good foundation for employees, residents and residents’ relatives to create a safe environment for all.

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