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Fall in Nursing Home
Nursing home residents are susceptible to falls for various reasons, including age-related changes in vision and balance, medications that can cause dizziness or drowsiness, and environmental hazards.
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death among nursing home residents. Falls account for more than half of all severe injuries in nursing homes.
Did you or a loved one sustain a fall injury in a nursing facility? If so, the personal injury attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, are legal advocates for residents harmed by staff members, visitors, and other residents. We work on behalf of our clients to hold the nursing home liable and ensure that your loved one is compensated for their damages.
Call our nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice from an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer and schedule a free case review. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Nursing homes are meant to be a haven for elderly residents, but falls happen frequently, which is concerning. If you are the victim of a nursing home fall, you may feel that your situation is unique and that no one understands what you are going through.
While every fall risk situation is different, it is essential to understand some of the most common causes of falls in a nursing home, prevent falls, and be better prepared to take action and protect yourself against future falls.
State and Federal Guidelines and Statistics on Falling In Nursing Homes
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that the incidence rate of falls in nursing homes is high, with more than one-third of senior residents falling each year. The CDC estimates that the number of injuries and deaths due to nursing home falls has been steadily increasing.
Public reporting from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reveals that older adults fall in a nursing home twice as much as others of their age group. The number of injuries and deaths resulting from falls in nursing homes is mainly attributed to understaffing, lack of supervision to ensure patient safety or staffing inexperience.
Nursing Home State and Federal Laws
- The Elder Justice Act requires reports of incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect, establishes a background check for employees, and creates The Elder Justice Coordinating Council (2010).
- Congress enacted the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA), requiring nursing homes participating in Medicare and Medicaid to comply with certain quality of care rules (1987).
- Arizona enacts the Adult Protective Services Act (APSA), legislation to further protect elders and other vulnerable adults from nursing home abuse and neglect, and as a quality improvement initiative (1988)
- Wallace v. Heilman, Ariz. App. The Court found that, under the Adult Protective Services Act, voluntary intoxication can cause a party to become a vulnerable adult, for example, by taking medication. That comparative fault may be used in determining damages to the injured party in these circumstances (2009).
Common Causes and Risk Factors of Falling in Nursing Homes
Most people imagine a nursing home as a safe and comfortable place for elderly individuals to live their final days. Unfortunately, many nursing home residents fall victim to injuries due to unsafe conditions, lack of supervision, absence of a fall prevention protocol, or muscle weakness.
Thousands of seniors are at a fall risk each year in these facilities, often with serious consequences. Many families are understandably concerned about the safety of their loved ones when they enter a nursing home.
Understanding the common causes of nursing home falls can help prevent them. Potential risk factors leading to most major injury falls include:
- Age-related changes in vision and balance: Older adults lose sight and sense of balance due to intrinsic risks, such as aging and chronic medical conditions. It places them at an increased risk for falls in nursing homes as they may not be able to see trip hazards or understand when they are losing their balance.
- Medications that can cause dizziness or drowsiness: Many medications prescribed to nursing home residents can cause dizziness or drowsiness. The disorientation by certain medicines can make it difficult for nursing home residents and cause a hazard.
- Environmental hazards: Nursing facilities often face environmental dangers that can lead to falls. Poor lighting, uneven surfaces, and cluttered walkways can lead to trips and falls.
- Lack of supervision: Often, nursing home residents are not given enough supervision by the staff, leading to serious injuries from falls when residents are left unsupervised or are not given the help they need to walk safely.
- Staffing inexperience: Nursing home staff members may not be appropriately trained in fall prevention and how to help residents when falls occur. Such oversight can lead to dangerous situations where nursing home patients are not adequately supervised or assisted in treating their fall injuries.
- Poor vision and inadequate lighting: The high risk of compromised vision combined with poor lighting could lead to patient falls, as residents may not be able to see clearly what is in their path or may not be able to see hazards around them. Adequate lighting is an essential part of a good fall prevention program.
- Wet floors and cluttered areas can also lead to falls, as nursing home patients might be unable to keep their balance when walking or standing.
- Uneven surfaces: Unstable furniture, broken wheelchair brakes, and uneven surfaces can create dangerous hazards that could lead to a nursing home fall.
- Physical restraints, such as bed rails and chair straps, can often lead to nursing home falls because they can make it difficult for residents to move around and cause them to lose their balance.
- Poorly fitting footwear: Many nursing home residents are prescribed improper footwear, leading to slips and falls.
- Inattentive staff: Staff nurses and aides may ignore the residents, leading to a nursing home fall when they are left unsupervised or not given the help they need to walk safely.
- Nursing home negligence: Receiving substandard care could increase the patient's risk of falling and diminish their quality of life when malnourished, dehydrated, or over-sedated.
If you are aware of any of these risks in your loved one's nursing home, you should keep a close eye to protect your family member from experiencing a fall in a nursing home. Moreover, if you already know of your loved one’s fall in their nursing home, contact our nursing home lawyers for a free case review.
Common Fall-Related Injuries in Nursing Homes
Fall-related injuries are a leading cause of accidental death in the United States, accounting for more than 33,000 fatalities yearly. Nursing homes are hazardous places for slip and fall-related injuries.
While anyone can suffer a fall-related injury, specific demographics are at greater risk, including nursing home residents, the disabled, and people with dementia. Many older adults suffer from nursing home falls and injuries due to muscle weakness.
Most nursing home falls result from various contributing factors, including age-related muscle atrophy, lack of exercise, underlying health conditions, and nursing home negligence. In addition to the risk of death, nursing home falls can lead to severe and life-altering injuries such as:
- Hip fractures can immediately reduce a resident's quality of life. In some cases, even the best medical care following a hip fracture is not enough to save a patient's life if the bone break cannot heal or becomes infected due to their chronic conditions, disease, or overall health.
- Traumatic brain injury: Nursing home falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries in adults over 65. A traumatic brain injury can cause many long-term health problems, including seizures, dementia, and reduced cognitive function.
- Spinal cord injury can sever major nerves or disrupt the central nervous system and result in full or partial paralysis, depending on the extent of the damage. A spinal cord injury can sometimes be fatal, even with the best professional medical advice.
- Broken bones: Bones can break in any type of fall, no matter how minor. A fractured bone can often lead to a lengthy and painful recovery process.
- Mental health issues: Many patients experience reduced quality of living after a fall for fear of falling again, feeling helpless, or overwhelming depression from social isolation. The fall will likely diminish activity levels, ultimately decreasing their fall risk.
- Assessing and addressing potential risks: Nursing homes should routinely consider and identify patients for risk factors that may lead to a fall, such as poor vision, medication side effects, and limited mobility. Once these contributing factors are identified, the nursing home should develop a plan of action to address them.
- Encouraging safe mobility: Nursing homes should encourage all residents to be as mobile as possible by providing exercise opportunities and the necessary assistive devices, such as walkers and canes.
- Providing adequate staff supervision: Nursing homes should ensure that there is always enough staff on duty to monitor residents properly and provide assistance when needed.
- Utilize safety devices and services: Installing and maintaining bed/chair alarms and using paid sitters with those at risk of falling so they can immediately notify the nursing home staff that their attention is needed to prevent injuries related to nursing home falls.
- Ensuring a safe environment: Nursing homes should regularly check the premises for potential hazards, such as wet floors, loose rugs, and obstructions in walkways, and take corrective action.
- Implementing fall prevention programs: Many nursing facilities have implemented fall prevention programs, including educational workshops for staff and residents, hazard inspections, specific healthcare research, and targeted interventions for high-risk residents.
- Visiting your loved one regularly and getting to know the staff: Visiting your loved one regularly will help you become familiar with the staff and the environment, which can help you identify potential hazards of nursing home falls.
- Being aware of your loved one’s risk factors: Many people who fall in nursing homes do so because of certain contributing factors, such as poor vision or balance, limited mobility, or taking multiple medications. Familiarize yourself with these risk factors, and alert the nursing home staff if any are present.
- Asking questions: Don’t hesitate to ask the nursing home staff how they prevent falls and what safety measures are in place. You should also ask how the nursing home responds when a fall occurs.
- Working with the nursing home: Families can work with the nursing home to help keep their loved ones safe. It may include providing assistive devices, like a walker or cane, and ensuring that there is always enough staff on duty to monitor residents properly.
When Nursing Home Falls Result in Wrongful Death
If a nursing home resident falls and dies due to their injuries, their surviving loved ones may have the option to file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the nursing home liable and the facility's staff accountable.
Did your loved one die in a preventable accident caused by the staff’s negligence or abuse? If so, contact us today for a free legal case review. We have an excellent team of elder abuse attorneys ready to help.
Preventing Falls in Nursing Homes
With many risks associated with nursing home falls, the facilities need to develop and implement a falls management program with prevention strategies. Some simple steps that nursing homes can take to help prevent falls include:
What Families Can Do to Prevent Nursing Home Residents from Falling
The risks associated with falls in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are significant. However, there are many things that families can do to help prevent nursing home falls, including:
Falls Associated with Nursing Home Abuse
Unfortunately, elder abuse is a severe problem affecting older men and women, especially those in nursing homes. Some studies show that nursing home abuse creates dangerous scenarios where the patient falls, resulting in serious injuries.
Patients are often victims of nursing home abuse by staff, visitors, employees, and other residents. In these cases, the nursing home staff is often aware of the abuse but does nothing to stop it.
Patients who have been abused are also likely to suffer neglect, including failure to provide basic needs such as food, water, clothing, and hygiene. Substandard care and treatment can exacerbate existing conditions and increase health problems that increase nursing home falls.
Is your loved one the victim of nursing home abuse? If so, they might be entitled to receive financial compensation for their injuries related to the mistreatment. Contact us for a free legal case review. Our attorneys will discuss your legal options regarding your nursing home fall lawsuit to obtain the damages you deserve.
Holding Nursing Homes Liable for Damages: Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
Nursing home abuse and neglect are the leading causes of falls among the elderly. Nursing home falls occur when the staff fails to provide sufficient supervision, care, and assistance.
Our legal firm holds the facility accountable for its misconduct when our clients fall and suffer injuries. We serve as advocates to senior citizens, the disabled, and infirmed that require the legal help necessary to make their lives whole again.
Is your loved one the victim of nursing home mistreatment? Did a fall happen while in the assisted living facility, and did your loved one suffer severe injuries or wrongful death? Call us at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) to schedule a free legal consultation.
We accept all personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and nursing home fall lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. This agreement ensures you pay nothing until we resolve your case through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.