As 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.
Implications For New Nursing Home Patients
While the results of this study are important for both patients and facilities, the study fails to account for another variable likely in play in these nursing home falls—unfamiliarity of staff with patient behavior and care needs. Particularly for patients with a diminished physical or mental capacity, it is crucial that a friend or family member relay their assessment of patient needs to staff immediately on admission— and preferably to a director of nursing or other supervisory person. Unfortunately, while a comprehensive care assessment can identify many areas that pose a threat to the patient well being, the assessments are rarely done (nor are they required to be) within the day or two following admission. Clearly, the safety and will being of newly admitted nursing home patients is an area that merits further attention in order to make the transition as safe as feasible.