Over 5,000 accidents reported at senior housing facilities in FY20, 165 fatal

At least 5,283 accidents occurred in fiscal 2020 at senior housing facilities that provide services to watch over residents, 165 of which were fatal, according to a survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

The fiscal 2020 figures reported to local governments are about 20% higher than the ones reported in fiscal 2018.

The reporting of accidents, such as aspiration and falls, to local governments is not obligatory, and some experts say these figures could be just the tip of the iceberg.

The survey was conducted by phone or questionnaire between July and November on 129 prefectural and major city governments that have jurisdiction over senior housing facilities. It asked questions such as how many accidents were reported between fiscal 2018 and 2020.

The total accident tally for the three-year period was about 15,000, about 470 of them fatal.

According to some local governments that have analyzed the accidents, many involved falls and bone fractures.

Such senior housing facilities have been in place since fiscal 2011 based on the revised Law on the Securement of Stable Supply of Elderly Persons’ Housing.

They are essentially private rental housing for people 60 or older who do not have problems going about their daily lives.

The facilities registered at local governments are required to install certain accessibility equipment.

Currently about 270,000 people across the nation live in such facilities.

One factor behind these accidents is a shortage of special nursing homes that take in elderly people in serious need of nursing care.

Due to severe staff shortages and other challenges facing the nursing industry, elderly people who should be living in special nursing homes are instead living in senior housing facilities, where only one or a few staff members are on-site during the daytime to watch over the residents.

There has been no detailed survey or information disclosure on accidents at such facilities by the central government, and the situation is not yet fully known.

The law stipulates that such facilities have to meet certain standards, such as adequate floor space and services to watch over residents.

However, as they are positioned as private rental housing, their operators are not required to report accidents to local governments.

“The results of the survey are probably only the tip of the iceberg, considering that reporting of the accidents is not obligatory,” said Prof. Yoshihide Sugawara of Tohoku Fukushi University, who specializes in risk management studies.

“The government should investigate to find out the exact number of accidents and disclose such information.”