Are Nursing Homes Responsible when Residents Fall?
Elderly people are much frailer than younger people. As a result, they tend to fall more often and, after a fall, not heal as quickly. In fact, nearly 40 percent of all injuries to the elderly in the United States are the direct result of falls. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death among those over age 65.
The risk of falling is one of the main reasons that the elderly end up in assisted living or nursing homes. These facilities are supposed to account for this risk and minimize the chances of falling. Nonetheless, between half and three-quarters of all nursing home residents fall at least once each year.
When is this malpractice?
When Is Risk of Falling Addressed?
All assisted living facilities and nursing homes are obliged to properly assess the health and needs of each resident at intake, and to create and follow an individualized care plan that will adequately protect the health and safety of the resident. Failure to create such a care plan, or failure to regularly reassess and modify a plan, is negligence on the part of a facility and can be the basis for a lawsuit.
Hazards that Cause Falls
A resident’s care plan should consider all hazards that might contribute to falls.
Health hazards include a general loss of strength and balance, as well as problems with walking and mobility. Other factors include chronic health conditions, medications to treat those conditions (that can cause dizziness or poor reaction time), dementia, dehydration, foot problems and impaired vision.
Equipment hazards include poorly fitted or maintained wheelchairs, walkers and canes; bed and chair height, accessibility and safety; and bedrails and restraints (rarely used any more).
Environmental hazards, which can be within a unit or in public areas, include wet floors, poor lighting and clutter.
Ways to Prevent Falls
Assisted living and nursing home facilities can (and are expected to) address the likelihood of falls in many ways. They can address existing health, equipment and environmental hazards. They can prescribe a resident with a physical conditioning or rehabilitation to improve strength.
They can add adaptive devices like grab bars, especially by toilets and sinks. Beds can be lowered and toilets can be raised. Special pads on the floors in strategic spots (like near a bed) can cushion falls. Residents should have access to call buttons to seek assistance. Bed alarms can notify staff when a resident is trying to get in or out of bed without assistance. Staff should be trained in the proper techniques for transferring residents without dropping them or causing them to fall. Most importantly, perhaps the easiest way to prevent falls due to slippery wet floors is to have them treated with the Nano-Grip floor safety process. One simple treatment will assure that these floors are no longer slippery when they get wet. They are in fact safer wet than dry!
Be Alert for Signs of a Fall
When visiting a friend or relative, be attentive for bruises, cuts or other injuries that might have been caused by a fall. If you are suspicious that a fall has occurred, check. A fall and the resulting injury should be noted in the resident’s chart. Under federal law, a copy of the chart must be provided promptly (often within two business days) to a relative
Is It Medical Malpractice?
The success of a slip-and-fall injury lawsuit brought by an assisted living or nursing home resident depends on whether it was unavoidable and isolated, or whether it resulted from a failure of the facility to comply with legally required standards of care.
A nursing home might be at fault if it failed to pay attention to the needs of the resident, if there was not enough staff (there is a documented national shortage), if the staff was not properly trained in fall prevention, if the facility lacked the proper equipment to prevent falls, or if the facility didn’t take steps to rectify a problem, like slippery floors, that they were aware of.
Nano-Grip your floors before someone has to Call a Personal Injury Lawyer
The legal issues surrounding slip-and-fall injuries in assisted living and nursing home facilities can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case and the laws in each state are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the subject. It is not legal advice. For more detailed and specific information about your particular situation, please contact a personal injury lawyer.
Have your facility evaluated by a floor safety specialist who can measure and document the slip resistance of your floors. Call 855-687-0976 to be put in touch with a Nano-Grip representative in your area who can evaluate your situation and offer you an answer to your slip and fall problems.