Injurious falls in nonambulatory nursing home residents: a comparative study of circumstances, incidence, and risk factors

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996 Mar;44(3):273-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1996.tb00913.x.


Objective: To determine the circumstances of, incidence of, and risk factors for falls resulting in serious injuries in nonambulatory nursing home residents compared with those for ambulatory residents.

Design: Prospective cohort study with 1-year follow-up.

Setting: Twelve community nursing homes in Tennessee.

Subjects: A total of 1228 residents, 65 years of age or older, of whom 725 (59%) were nonambulatory and 503 (41%) were ambulatory.

Measurements: Baseline data were obtained for potential risk factors for injurious falls. These included demographic characteristics, mental and physical function, vision, hearing, incontinence, and use of mechanical restraints and psychotropic drugs. Data were obtained from direct resident assessment, care provider interview, and the nursing home Minimum Data Set (MDS) (validated in a sample of residents).

Outcome: There were 111 first falls resulting in serious injury (head injury with altered consciousness, fracture, joint dislocation or sprain, or sutured laceration) that received medical treatment (hospitalization, emergency room visit, physician visit, or on-site radiological examination), ascertained from facility incident reports and nursing home charts.

Results: Nonambulatory residents had a substantially greater prevalence of mental and physical impairment. Circumstances of injurious falls in nonambulatory (n = 39 falls) and ambulatory (n = 72 falls) residents differed; those in the former groups were more likely to involve equipment (87% vs 45%, P < .0001), occur while seated or during transferring (82% vs 21%, P < .0001), and from a chair/bed level (54% vs 6%, P < .0001). The incidence of injurious falls in nonambulatory residents (6.7 per 100 person-years) was less than half that in ambulatory residents (17.0 per 100 person-years, P < .0001). After controlling for other factors, the nonambulatory residents at highest risk were those not bed-bound and with capacity for independent transfer (incidence density ratio (IDR) = 2.02, 95% CI = 1.07-7.99); the ambulatory residents at highest risk were baseline users of psychotropic drugs (IDR = 2.49, 95% CI = 1.43-4.33).

Conclusions: In the study cohort, nonambulatory residents had 35% of injurious falls. Because the circumstances and risk factors of these events were substantially different from those for ambulatory residents, separate prevention strategies may be needed for this group. These data suggest that increasing the safety of transferring and of equipment are appropriate targets for interventions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Homes for the Aged / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Tennessee / epidemiology


  • Psychotropic Drugs