TOKYO – About 60% of Japanese local governments do not disclose information on fatal accidents reported by nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly, according to a survey by Yomiuri Shimbun.
In the 2021 financial year, 1,159 people died in accidents in such facilities in 106 of the municipalities surveyed.
The survey was conducted in June and July in 109 cities and counties, including cities designated by government regulations, prefectural capitals and Tokyo’s 23 counties, and 106 responded.
Of these, 20 municipalities or 19% published the number of deaths on their websites or in newsletters and 21 or 20% announced the number in meetings with entrepreneurs where guidance was offered to prevent recurrence.
Sixty-five municipalities, or 61%, have not disclosed the information, but the Yokohama Municipality’s Senior Facilities Department said it intends to do so in the future because the information is important to prevent recurrence.
According to the long-term care insurance law, elderly care communities are obliged to report accidents to the municipalities. However, municipalities are not obliged to publish the number of accidents and the central government does not compile a national list of such accidents.
In the survey, 87 municipalities, or 82%, said that a national balance sheet prepared by the central government was necessary because it would help formulate effective accident prevention policies.
Of the 1,159 fatal accidents reported in the survey, the most common cause was aspiration – which occurs when food or liquid enters the airways or lungs rather than being swallowed during feeding – with 679 cases, or 59%, followed by Falls 159 or 14%.
79 municipalities, or 75%, cited “lack of staff” as one of the reasons for the accidents.
A nursing home in Kawasaki received administrative guidance and was required to submit an improvement report to the local government in April after the facility reported seven falls, including one fatality, from April to July last year.
A resident in her 80s, who died in May last year, was found collapsed in her room at 5am by service staff, who initially decided to monitor her condition. The woman was taken to a hospital about five hours later, but died that night.
The facility apologized and said its hospitalization criteria were unclear. The city’s investigations also revealed that the facility did not conduct tours every two hours according to its own plans.
“There can be issues behind the scenes, such as an inability to find enough staff to cover night shifts,” a Kawasaki official said.
In the survey, 59 communities, or nearly 60%, indicated that the use of technology such as surveillance devices is an effective measure to prevent accidents.
In fiscal 2019, a national company, Sencho Kokyukai Social Welfare Corp., installed bed sensors in its care facilities and took advantage of prefectural subsidies.
Sensors are placed under mattresses and staff are notified on tablet devices when residents sit up in their beds, allowing staff to offer immediate assistance if needed.
The sensors can detect residents’ movements in their beds and their breathing patterns, and the technology can tell if residents are sleeping well.
According to the nursing home operator, the number of falls at its facilities fell by 60% to 17 in September 2021, compared to 44 in September 2019 before the system was introduced.