Almost 15,000 Victorian aged care residents were admitted to hospital in the last decade because of an injury, 90 per cent of them following a fall, a Monash University study finds.

The study undertaken by the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU) at the Monash University Accident Research Centre aimed to explore the incidence of unintentional injury-related hospital admissions among aged care residents.

The research used data for permanent and respite residents aged 65 and over of Victorian aged care facilities from 2007-8 to 2016-17.

Over the 10-year period the number of injury-related hospital admissions of aged care residents increased from a low of 1,063 in 2007-8 to a peak of 1,857 in 2016-17. The total number of admissions over this period was 14,896.

Over this period, the average rate in admissions and the population of Victorians aged 65 both increased by 3 per cent per year, the study found.

The study found that falls were the most common cause of injury admissions (88 per cent) followed by being hit, struck or crushed (2 per cent).

Hip and thigh fractures were the most common types of injury (44 per cent) followed by open head wounds (30 per cent).

VISU director Dr Janneke Berecki-Gisolf said falls were the most common cause of serious injuries among older people regardless of whether they lived in residential care or the community.

“In general, falls among older people are the leading cause of hospital admissions due to unintentional injury,” Dr Berecki-Gisolf said.

Looking at the three years from 2014-15 to 2016-17, the study found that aged care residents occupied a hospital bed for a total of 22,694 days.

Over the three-year period, females residents accounted for 68 per cent of unintentional injury-related hospital admissions (4,961), and those aged 85-94 were the most frequently admitted group (2,834).

Between 2014-15 and 2016-17, 188 residents died in hospital, most commonly due to hip and thigh fractures (31 per cent) and intracranial injury (12 per cent).

While there are already preventative measures in place for in-hospital complications such as delirium and falls, Dr Berecki-Gisolf said aged care residents may be at higher risk and could benefit from additional preventative measures when admitted to hospital.

Dr Berecki-Gisolf said aged care providers should focus on injury prevention efforts within facilities to reduce unintentional injury-related hospital admissions among residents.

Similarly, “injury reduction could be achieved by a focus on falls prevention in the home,” particularly as older people are increasingly choosing to remain at home for longer, she said.

The report also provides information and recommendations in response to ageing population trends and for preventing injuries. Among the 10 recommendations, it calls for:

  • state and federal-funded investigations into injuries among older people receiving care in their own home
  • a focus on injury prevention efforts among residents aged 85 and above
  • interventions to support residents with altered mental states upon admission to hospitals
  • the development and implementation of choking and suffocation guidelines.

The study, Unintentional injury among older residents of aged care facilities in Victoria, was published in the bi-annual publication if Hazard. Access the report here.

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