Recognizing the significant threat that ‘falls’ pose to patients in nursing homes, federal regulations impose a duty on facilities to assess each patient at the time they are admitted (and similarly reassess on a regular basis) to determine the likelihood of the patient is at risk falling and then create a plan of care for the facility to implement to minimize the frequency and severity of any ensuing injury.
Given the significant risk of serious fall-related injuries— or even death, fall precautions need to be made a priority at all long term care facilities caring for the elderly. While some fall precautions may be customized to the patient’s indvidual needs, many experts in geriatric care suggest the following common sense precautions at all facilities:
- Removing debris from floors
- Proving staff to assist patients with transfers
- Utilizing grab bars and other supportive devices
- Lower bed heights to reduce the chance of an injury from fall
- Putting mats aside beds to act as a cushion should a patient fall
- Using alarms on beds and chairs to notify staff when a patient moves
I was reminded how important fall precautions can be when it comes to safeguarding the well-being of the elderly by recently filed wrongful death lawsuit filed following the death of a patient at a Texas nursing home. The deceased patient’s family initiated the lawsuit against Regent Care Center (Texas) after their loved one died from a head injury sustained after falling from her bed.
In addition to failing to put the woman’s bed in a “low position” and having cushioning mats next to the sides of her bed, the lawsuit also alleges that the staff at the facility inappropriately responded to the woman’s fall by placing her back into her bed where their was a visible injury and the woman complained of pain.
As a nursing home lawyer, I see many facilities simply ignoring the most basic precautionary fall prevention measures. While surely these safeguards are critical to each patients well being, I frequently encounter staff working at these facilities with little or no training on how to successfully implement these measures or concerning the post-fall evaluation of a patient.
As in the situation discussed above, nursing home staff have a duty to assess and obtain medical care for any patient involved in an injury at their facility. Given the rapid progression of head injuries, it is absolutely imperative that staff identifies the problem and get the assistance of a physician immediately. Tragically, in the case of neurological injuries, delay— or denial is simply an unacceptable reaction to these situations.
For laws related to Texas nursing homes, look here.
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