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.

keypadWithout a doubt, one of the most frustrating aspects of litigating cases involving nursing home injuries is that many of them derive from the failure of staff to implement the most common sense safeguards.

Unlike situations where a facility may be negligent providing poor medical care for a patient (which is plenty disturbing), the emergence of cases involving reckless carelessness is something that I am beginning to see with more frequency as facilities look to stock their facilities with the least qualified staff— at the lowest concentrations.

I was again reminded that the real tragedy associated with this uptick in poor oversight is the harm imposed on patients living at these facilities— who are very much reliant upon staff to provide them with their care–  when I read about a recent incident at a New York nursing home in Queens.

fall cartoon.jpgRecognizing 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

LexingtonFor a nursing home that claims to treat its residents “with the highest level of the respect,” Lexington of Orland Park seems to have a long way to go, if you’re to believe recent Illinois Health Department surveys.

The surveys, conducted in April of 2011 and December of 2010, point out several serious deficiencies in home that’s supposed to  “provide the most compassionate service possible.”

A recurring theme throughout the surveys was instances of suspicious bruises going unreported. Often, I find that suspicious bruises are a strong indicator of physical abuse.

Nursing Home Abuse: Repeated FallsWhen I first saw a recent news report about a Canadian nursing home patient that fell 45 times over a six-month period, I began to question my reading skills as the number seemed to be downright shocking!  As it turns out, my eyes are indeed in good order as are the journalistic skills of the Canadian reporter who prepared the story.

Hidden camera footage captured the man, who is afflicted with Parkinson’s and Dementia, repeatedly falling at the nursing home where he was living.  In addition to the alarming pattern of falls, the videotape confirming abusive behavior on the part of the nurses who were to be assisted him.

Rather than providing assistance for the man, video footage showed the nurse mocking the man as he lay on the floor.

elderly bruise.jpgFrom a liability perspective, nursing home fall cases prove to be far more difficult than they may appear to be at first glance.

While nursing home must assess each patient for their propensity to fall and implement fall prevention accordingly— for some patients falls may occur even with safeguards in place.

We’ll save the discussion on nursing home fall precautions for another day– but what about how the facility handles the care post-fall?

There are many situations involve nursing home injury that involve affirmative acts on the part of staff– where an improper medical technique, lift or inappropriate dose of medication may have disastrous consequences for the patient.  Yet, there are other situations where equally horrible outcomes arise because of inattentive staff.

Inattentive Staff To Blame In The Death Of A Nursing Home PatientSure, there really may be countless reasons why staff may be inattentive, but the primary reasons usually come down to inadequate staffing on the part of the facility itself.  When nursing home owners and operators heap more and more responsibility on staff– something must give– as there is only so much time to do what’s necessary and so much energy with which to do it.

Certainly, we could likely tie many common types of nursing home injuries into this common scenario. But I was again reminded of how incredibly important it is for nursing home staff to monitor the patients they are caring for, when I came across the news report of an Australian woman who died apparently from strangulation when she was left unsupervised on the toilet— likely for six hours!

stairway.jpgSometimes I see news stories with such common fact patterns that I have to look at the date of the report as I frequently ask myself, “didn’t I just see this article?”

Unfortunately, the cycle of negligent nursing home care continues with seemingly never ending cycles of stories about patient injury and death.

And yes, many of these do have an erry resemblance to one another.  If there’s one thread of similarity amongst many of these stories, it’s that the majority of these occurrences could likely have been avoided with a small dose of adequate judgment.

Perhaps one of the more frustrating aspects of my job is attempting to convey the value of a senior’s life to a defense lawyer, insurance carrier or jurors.  Particularly, when evaluating the value of a nursing home or assisted living case, I find that people generally have a difficult time appreciating the significance of life’s later years.

Fall-Related Death Of 99-Year-Old WomanSure we can look at seniors and say, “Hey, he’s just an old geezer, maybe he had a another couple of decent years in him?  What’s the big deal if he died today or tomorrow?”

Alternatively, I suggest the value of our later days, months, and years really have more significance and value as many seniors gain a new perspective on life only when seeing the inevitable coming their way.

Falls pose a far greater risk of injury and death for seniors than most people would ever guess.  Understanding the physiological and environmental factors that bring about falls is important both form a fall-prevention perspective as well as to help evaluate a nursing homes potential liability in fall-injury cases.

Conditions That Guarantee Elderly Of Falls In Nursing HomesI came across a very informative article regarding elderly falls by Kathy Kemle, PA-C that appeared in the Clinical Advisor, “Falls in older adults: averting a disaster” which is especially informative and should be essential reading for both patients and caregivers given the prevalence of falls in the older segments of our society.

In fact, there is a significant increase in both the frequency and severity of falls as we age. The fall rate for people 65 and older escalates at a rapid rate as every year ticks by.  Particularly notable is the fact that there are higher fall rates for seniors living in long-term care facilities— nursing homes and assisted living facility— compared with senior living in more independent living arrangements.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Nursing Home Fall-Policy Perhaps no topic in nursing home litigation is more hotly contested that resident fall cases. At the heart of the issue is really the feasibility of the facility in preventing patient falls. Certainly, this topic will continue to be hotly debated amongst nursing home operators and patient advocates as the rights of the patients are balanced against the feasibility of fall prevention techniques.

The nursing home fall debate once again made news headlines in Ohio when the family of a deceased nursing home patient filed a lawsuit against the facility in the aftermath of their mother’s death shortly following a fall.

While the feasibility of preventing the woman’s fall is no doubt relevant in addressing the facilities liability, what make this situation particularly disturbing is the fact that the facility never communicated the woman’s extensive fall history to the family.

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