Lawyer Resources for Falls in Nursing Homes

Falls in Nursing HomesNursing home falls can cause tragic injuries to your loved one, including broken limbs, severe abrasions, concussions, permanent mental damage, permanent disabilities and even death. The emotional turmoil that a vulnerable resident can experience after a nursing home fall includes depression, feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety, inability to communicate, trauma and other psychological illnesses. Nursing homes are liable in many cases for fall-related injuries, and it is important for you to stand up for the legal rights of a loved one who has suffered from nursing home falls. You can schedule an initial consultation with a nursing home lawyer to understand the compensation that may be available for a loved one who has suffered in falls in nursing home facilities.

Causes of Nursing Home Falls

Nursing home staff frequently fails to perform the required assessments to protect vulnerable adults from fall-related injuries. Nursing homes must fill out a fall-risk assessment, but these assessments often go missing, are incomplete or not filled out with enough care. Residents may need special medical equipment or beds to prevent falls in a nursing home. Residents with physical or mental disabilities are especially susceptible to falls in nursing homes.

Nursing home falls occur when there is failure to maintain clean and safe premises for residents. Residents may have access to broken or damaged wheelchairs, or there may be spilled liquid on floors. There may be a lack of specialized bathing equipment available for residents, and this also increases the likelihood that nursing home falls will result. Improperly trained staff may drop a resident during the transfer in and out of a nursing home bed. Even more disturbing is when nursing home falls are the result of other forms of abuse, such as the use of chemical restraints. Unnecessary medications may cause a resident to become drowsy and unable to walk properly in hallways. Residents under the influence of chemical restraints are at a great risk to suffer from fall-related injuries.

Required Supervision Under the Law and How Nursing Homes Fail to Adequately Supervise Residents

Nursing homes are required to provide consistent supervision of patients who may be at risk for suffering from falls. Under-staffing frequently accounts for a lack of consistent supervision of patients. Staff members may also be fatigued if they are forced to work long shifts, and this may result in improper supervision of residents at risk for falls.

In addition, those residents who have suffered from falls are required to have additional supervision. Close observation is required to ensure that residents who have been involved in falls do not suffer internal wounds or bleeding. In some of the worst instances, this close observation is not provided and leads to the death of residents. A resident may die from intracranial hemorrhages that develop after nursing home falls.

Statistics of Nursing Home Falls in the United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over 1,800 nursing home residents die from falls every year. About 10 to 20 percent of all falls result in serious injuries of nursing home residents. One significant aspect of this problem is that the majority of falls go unreported, so family members may never learn about a fall. If family members see outward bruises or other injuries, then this may indicate that a nursing home resident has been involved in an unreported fall. The CDC also reports that nursing home residents are often involved in multiple falls in a given year. The average resident is involved in at least two to three multiple falls every year.

Get Help from Nursing Home Lawyers Today For Your Loved Ones Injuries Sustained In A Fall

The nursing home injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help you move forward in handling a case that involves fall-related injuries of your loved one. It can be frustrating to realize that nursing homes frequently fail to meet reporting requirements for these types of accidents, but our team of seasoned nursing home lawyers are prepared to investigate such cases and ensure that justice is served in your case. Don’t let the nursing home pass off your loved ones fall as an inevitable event! The majority of nursing home falls are due to the negligent assistance of staff or the failure to keep an environment safe and free from clutter and potentially dangerous conditions.

Elder Injuries Due to Inattentive CareWhen it comes to caring for disabled nursing home patients, a momentary diversion by staff member can has disastrous consequences for the patient.  Many disabled patients are considered to by ‘full assist’ patients meaning that staff are to continuously look after them while they are under their care. Where ever the patient goes, the staff member should shadow.

Following orders in the plan of care

Despite patient charts full of notes and physicians orders to provide full assistance to patients, I regularly see instances when staff become drowsy, distracted or downright disregard the instructions relating to the type of care they are to provide.  These missteps, even momentarily, frequently result in a serious injury to a patient when they fall or is dropped by staff.

iStock_000019567337XSmall-200x300As a nursing home lawyer I’ve gradually become accustomed to set’s of similar fact patterns in my practice.  One of the most disturbing situations involving newly admitted nursing home patients who suffer an injury shortly after their admission. What distinguishes this group of cases from other scenarios involving nursing home injuries is that these situations are overwhelmingly preventable with the implementation of the basic precautions.  Yet, too frequently these incidents occur because care instructions were ignored or not relayed all together.

Evidence Of The Trend Of Falls Involving Newly Admitted Nursing Home Patients

A recently published study involving falls involving newly admitted nursing home patients caught my attention, as it seems to confirm my earlier suspicions related to the safety dilemmas facing new nursing home patients.  Investigators from the University of Southern California and Brown University reviewed the charts of 230,000 newly admitted nursing home patients and discovered that more than 20% sustained a fall within 30 days of their admission. The study further analyzed the circumstance involved in the incidents and determined that the incidence of falls was directly correlated to staffing levels.  Facilities with higher CNA staffing levels tended to have few resident falls.

Ignoring An Injured Nursing Home PatientI’ve got a confession to make.  Sometimes when I’m in my office I make personal calls.  Sometimes I even take time away from my day to forward email chains of perverted jokes to friends.  Other times, I’ll talk with my colleagues about my weekend plans— sometimes even on a Monday.  I’d imagine my style of intermixing personal plans during the course of my workday is fairly normal as many of us spend a good chunk of our waking hours plugging away at our jobs.

Since its my blog, I generously chose to call these daily diversions ‘personal plans’, but surely these could be aptly categorized simply as ‘distractions’.  While for all these mini-distractions I encounter— or create for myself in the course of the day, I would at least like to think that these distractions aren’t really that problematic because I still make doing what needs to be done at my job priority number one.

I began to consider the daily distractions almost all of of face during the course of the day– both at work and at home— when I read about an almost unbelievable episode of extreme nursing home neglect involving staff at a Iowa nursing home.  An internal video shot at All American Restorative Care in Washington, IA depicts what I’d consider to be a situation involving far more than a healthy dose of distraction during a Christmas party at the facility.

Death as Result of Transfer From Wheelchair To BedMoving a patient from one device to another– or typically referred to as a ‘transfer’– is one of the most essential services a nursing home provides to immobile patients, yet it is also one of the most common sources of patient injury.

Transfers are deemed to be such an important part of patient care, that all patients must be assessed to determine the type of assistance the facility is to provide for the patient.

Particularly for immobile patients, the assistance of one, two or sometimes even three staff members may be necessary to safely move the patient to a wheelchair, bed or other device.  Unfortunately, even with the supervision of multiple staff members, transfers can easily result in a patient getting dropped or falling when the staff fail to act in concert or use proper lifting technique.

Preventable Fall Related InjuriesAs an attorney working on nursing home negligence cases, falls at facilities are a steady source of my case work.  Particularly in an elderly population commonly found at many nursing home facilities, falls frequently have devastating consequences where patients suffer various types of fractures and head injures that cause a tremendous amount of pain and diminish the quality of their lives.

Recognizing the dangers associated with falls in nursing homes, federal laws require that each patient be assessed for their propensity to fall and preventative measures must be instituted by the facility.

When properly implemented, the preventative fall measures can indeed make significant headway in reducing the number of nursing home falls.  However, even the best best fall prevention plan can not prescribe a preventative measure for every precarious situation encountered by patients as they go about their day– nor would such plans necessarily be practical as they would simply be impossible to administer.

Bed Alarms In Nursing HomesVarious alarms devises are frequently used by nursing homes and hospitals to help keep staff updated as to changes in a resident’s condition or notified in circumstances where a patient may be at risk for harming themselves.

For example, in the case of patients who may be at risk for falling, an alarm on a patient’s bed or chair may alert staff that the patient has moved and staff should address the situation before a patient sustains a fall.

Similarly, in the case of patients on a ventilator, an alarm may be used to notify staff when there is a problem with the machine or when a patient’s oxygen level has dropped.

Communication in Short-Term Nursing Home Admissions
For many people, a short term admission to a nursing home to recover from an illness or provide a break to a caregiver sounds like a reasonable proposition.  While many of these people are not inclined to use the services of a nursing home for their long-term care needs, there appears to be more of a willingness to use nursing homes for a fixed period.

After all, how much could possibly go wrong during a short term admission of just a few days or weeks?

Despite the short time horizon, without the nursing home’s understanding of patient needs and an understanding from the family concerning the type of care that nursing homes are capable of providing, short term admissions—of any duration– can lead to patient injury and even death.

Nursing Home Negligence
In many nursing home negligence cases it may be easy to point the finger at the person who was responsible for the direct care of the individual at the time they were injured.

Assuming the situation involves an acute incident such as: a medication error or fall— it is easy to look at the circumstance as an open and shut case of an isolated employee simply not performing their job properly.  However, a closer inspection of the circumstance typically yields a situation where responsibility goes much further up the chain of command.

From a liability perspective, implicating the management or parent company can be a tactical decision— particularly if the facility is claiming that they have limited — or a complete absence of insurance coverage.  Litigation issues aside, it is important to understand that there’s a correlation between the actual care provided by staff and how that is impacted by decisions made by management.

elderly lady with caneIt’s no secret that falls in the elderly nursing home population remain one of the largest threats to patients safety and overall well-being.  Recognizing this threat, nursing homes must assess each patient for their potential fall-risk and create a plan of care to reduce the incidence of falls during their stay at the facility. 

While fall precautions may including common sense precautions such as: staff assistance, walkers or modification of bed heights— new research suggests that nursing homes need to begin evaluate patient’s use of common antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) which dramatically increase a patient’s risk of falling.

A recently published study in the British Journal of Pharmacology conducted by clinicians in the Netherlands followed a group of 248 nursing home patients diagnosed with dementia over a two-year period. 

Veterans Nursing Home
A major veterans home in Marshalltown, Iowa has discontinued a program where residents got paid to transport other residents in wheelchairs.The decision to end the program came after a wheelchair-bound resident fell face-first onto a cement ramp.

Home Commandant David Worley says the accident exposed a lack of training and raised serious questions about safety.

“We just hadn’t followed up [on the wheelchair escort program],” he said.

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric
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