A taxonomy and economic consequences of nursing home falls

Drugs Aging. 2006;23(3):251-62. doi: 10.2165/00002512-200623030-00007.


Background: Falls are a primary cause of injury and disability in the nursing home environment and can be costly to treat. We propose a taxonomy of nursing home falls that accounts for both the severity of fall consequences and the duration of the treatment episode. No other systematic approach of this kind has been previously described.

Methods: We defined a 9-level taxonomy of fall types and outcomes. Components of each fall category include resource use during the acute, convalescent, and long-term phases of treatment. Three variants of each category describe typical, best-case and worst-case fall episodes. Treatment costs were estimated for each fall category by applying unit costs from national databases and published sources to projected medical resource utilisation. Long-term costs reflect adjustment in Medicare per diem reimbursement rates associated with change in patient status subsequent to the fall.

Results: The most common and least costly fall category was category 1 -- non-injurious, which accounted for 30% of falls and a 1-year cost of US dollars 319 per event (range US dollars 71-550). The least common and most costly was fall category 9 -- multiple injuries, which accounted for 1% of falls and a 1-year cost of US dollars 22,368 (range US dollars 9,969-64,382).

Conclusions: The falls taxonomy represents a unique approach to estimating the cost of nursing home falls and offers a tool for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of fall prevention strategies. A validation study should be performed to confirm the magnitude of fall frequency and cost estimates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / economics*
  • Aged
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Frail Elderly
  • Health Care Costs
  • Homes for the Aged / economics
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Long-Term Care
  • Nursing Homes / economics