Ground-level falls lead to high rates of SNF admission, return trips to the hospital, study finds

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Even if they do not hit the ground from a great height, elderly people who seek hospital care for a fall commonly go on to a skilled nursing facility, according to a recently published study. These seniors also have a greater risk of returning to the hospital and have a significantly elevated risk of dying, the researchers found.

Investigators analyzed more than 1,300 hospital admissions for seniors who experienced a ground-level fall, for the period 2005 to 2008. A ground-level fall typically is defined as one that begins when a person has his or her feet on the ground.

Of those patients who survived hospitalization, 51% were discharged to a skilled nursing facility, the researchers determined, and a third were sent home without assistance. The remaining patients went home with assistance or went to an inpatient rehabilitation facility.

Within one year of injury, nearly 45% of the patients were readmitted to the hospital, the research team found. And those who were discharged to a SNF were three times more likely to die within year than those discharged home without assistance.

“Future efforts should examine whether improvements in the quality of post-hospital care affect both mortality and functional outcomes,” the authors stated.

The researchers were based at New York University School of Medicine, the University of Washington, and the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. Findings appear in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.

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