Of all the different types of injuries that nursing home patients may be susceptible to, falls remain one of the more difficult types of incidents to entirely prevent. By law, each patient in a nursing home needs to be assessed and re-assessed to determine what safeguards are appropriate to keep the patient safe. In the wake of a fall or when a patient’s condition changes, the fall risks are to be re-assessed.
Particularly with more physically active patients, it can be difficult to control where and how patients get around. Depending on the patient needs, weighing the amount of oversight necessary to protect a patient from injuring himself needs to be evaluated in conjunction with not restricting the patient’s inalienable freedom is an important consideration for facilities to address.
One the other hand, preventing falls in disabled patients inherently requires more direct staff involvement as patients commonly have little or no control over their limbs– thereby making fall prevention on the patients end difficult or impossible.
Liability in nursing home fall cases
From a legal perspective, anytime a patient falls at a nursing home resulting in a serious injury, the matter should be carefully evaluated to determine if the predetermined safeguards were indeed in place at the time of the incident. If it turns out that fall precautions were indeed in place, then the incident can be attributed to an unfortunate occurrence.
Increased frequency, increased liability on the part of facilities
However, any time there is a pattern of falls– particularly within a short time frame, the incident(s) deserve to analyzed closely. Repeated falls is obviously a concern for patients as the facility is seemingly not doing their job as they are required to be doing.
A recently filed nursing home abuse lawsuit involving an Illinois facility provided another reminder of the dangers associated with repeated falls— particularly involving disabled patients. According to reports in The Madison Record, the family of a nursing home patient has filed suit against Elmwood Nursing and Rehab Center related to an alarming series of falls at the facility in 2010. According to the court paperwork, the wheelchair-bound patient had the following fall episodes at Elmwood:
- June 28, 2010: Patient ‘tripped’ forward in his wheelchair and injured his face and nose
- June 30, 2010: Patient fell forward in his wheelchair and injured the right side of his face
- July 6, 2010: Fall from wheelchair again sustaining an injury to his face, head and brain
Don’t stand for repeated falls
Sounds like a broken record, but for many disabled nursing home patients, repeated incidents such as the above have become a needless way of life at some facilities. Repeated falls– particularly involving the same instrumentality, need to be carefully evaluated. If you have a family member who was involved in repeated falls, you may wish to speak to the supervisor at the facility to determine why they occurred and what the facility plans on doing with respect to making modifications. If the incident resulted in an injury to the patient, you may wish to speak to an elder abuse attorney to discuss your legal rights.