Everyday nursing home residents fall. Much like a toddler learning to walk, some falls are unpreventable. Nursing home residents remain the highest risk for falling and getting injured compared with any other demographic. The most fall prone must be identified identified by the nursing home staff. Identification of individuals who are at ‘high risk’ for falling is only part of the solution.
After reading this newspaper article of a Montana woman who fell four times during a 35 day stay at a nursing home, I was reminded of how important is is for nursing homes to have adequate fall protection in place. Despite the fact that this resident had a medical history which put her at high-risk for falls, the facility did not take precautions. Moreover, the facility had three opportunities to put fall prevention measures into effect before the last episode when the resident fell and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
The Montana woman’s husband and family have filed a lawsuit against the nursing home, drawing attention to the underlying cause of the woman’s death- poor staffing. The lawsuit claims the facility did not have an adequate number of staff and did not properly train them.
For high-risk residents, nursing homes must have adequate fall prevention measures in place. The best fall prevention is to provide adequate number of nursing home staff to supervise residents. While federal and state laws may specify minimum staffing ratios, the fact remains that may nursing home residents who are at high risk for falling need significantly more attention than the bare-bones staffing requirement. Nursing home residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s and low-blood pressure are particularly susceptible to falls.
According to Charlene Harrington, a University of San Francisco California professor, who has studied nursing home staffing, ‘only 5 percent of nursing homes around the U.S. have adequate staffing.” What will happen to the 95% of nursing home residents, who are exposed to chronic under-staffing, poor employee training and high staff turnover?
For laws related to Montana nursing homes, look here.