Objectives: To compare rates of falling between nursing home residents with and without dementia and to examine dementia as an independent risk factor for falls and fall injuries.
Design: Prospective cohort study with 2 years of follow-up.
Setting: Fifty-nine randomly selected nursing homes in Maryland, stratified by geographic region and facility size.
Participants: Two thousand fifteen newly admitted residents aged 65 and older.
Measurements: During 2 years after nursing home admission, fall data were collected from nursing home charts and hospital discharge summaries.
Results: The unadjusted fall rate for residents in the nursing home with dementia was 4.05 per year, compared with 2.33 falls per year for residents without dementia (P<.0001). The effect of dementia on the rate of falling persisted when known risk factors were taken into account. Among fall events, those occurring to residents with dementia were no more likely to result in injury than falls of residents without dementia, but, given the markedly higher rates of falling by residents with dementia, their rate of injurious falls was higher than for residents without dementia.
Conclusion: Dementia is an independent risk factor for falling. Although most falls do not result in injury, the fact that residents with dementia fall more often than their counterparts without dementia leaves them with a higher overall risk of sustaining injurious falls over time. Nursing home residents with dementia should be considered important candidates for fall-prevention and fall-injury-prevention strategies.