Why do nursing home falls occur?
Falls occur at much higher rates in the elderly because of certain health conditions which put them at risk. Degenerative eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma can all reduce visibility and increase the risk of falls. In addition, nervous system diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis can reduce mobility and body control. General symptoms of aging, such as arthritis and osteoporosis can exacerbate the situation and weaken the body. Patients with any of these conditions, or multiple conditions, are at risk of falling and should be treated with particular care.
How serious can falls in nursing homes be?
Within the elderly community, falls are the leading cause of death and serious injury. While not every fall is life threatening, there are thousands of cases of injury and death from falls every year, so each case needs to be addressed with due urgency. When falls are not taken seriously, injuries may not be discovered quickly, which can lead to more severe medical problems over time. In addition, elderly bodies are less successful at repairing themselves in the event of a trauma. A fall that might seem minor in a 40-year-old can be fatal in an 80-year-old.
Are nursing home falls preventable?
Although some falls are the result of interpersonal conflict or abuse, the majority of falls are accidental and can often be prevented through safety protocols and the implementation of devices designed to keep patients at risk of falling safe. The two biggest factors in preventing falls is sufficient staff supervision and thorough, working safety equipment.
What should I look for in my loved one's nursing home to prevent a fall?
There are many safety measures and protocols that nursing homes can implement to prevent falls in those who appear to be at risk. For high-risk patients, facilities should use a rotational schedule so that each patient can be checked, at a minimum, once every 15 minutes. If the patient needs any assistance at that time (using the restroom, retrieving the phone, etc.), they will not be attempted to perform the act on their own since the checks are frequent and regular. If your loved one is at risk of falling, simple observation of the staff over the period of an hour or two can reveal the level of attention that each patient is receiving.
You can also ask the staff about fall prevention measures that they are taking within the facility. These might include low beds, floor mats, and appropriate bed rails which all reduce the rate of falls at night. They might also implement a visual system, such as stars or red marks on the doors, beds, and/or wheelchairs of those who are at risk of falling so that staff throughout the facility can immediately recognize the patient's condition and take necessary precautions. Bed and chair alarms may be implemented for patients who have a penchant for trying to get up on their own, even though they have a history of falls or fall risks. These devices are clipped to the patient and the bed or wheelchair and alert staff when the patient is attempting to stand without assistance.
Who is responsible for a fall in a nursing home?
Usually the individual nursing home is responsible for the actions of their staff; however, sometimes nursing homes are owned by elder care groups that run dozens of homes all across the state. These larger organizations can also at times be held liable for negligence that occurs within their facilities. In order to begin to determine fault, an investigation into the nursing home's practices should be launched by a legal professional.
How can I know if a fall caused my loved one's death?
Knowing whether or not a fall was the direct cause of death can be a tricky subject. Often, falls will result in mid-level injuries such as fractures, which can contribute to a general deterioration of health. Although a death may occur weeks or even months after a fall, the initial incident that led to the beginning of the decline in health may still be the cause of death. For example, if a fall causes a hip fracture which leaves the patient bedbound, they might develop depression, bedsores, and/or a lack of appetite. The combination of these conditions, under certain circumstances, can be fatal.
Expert medical witnesses can help testify as to the cause of your loved one's death. An experienced elder abuse and medical malpractice lawyer will use expert testimonies to explain to the jury how a past event can cause a death, even if that death is not immediate.
What is the value of a settlement involving a fall?
Settlements involving falls vary widely, depending on the severity of the injury that the victim experiences. For example, a fall which results in a large painful bruise on the back which heals over the course of a month would garner a smaller award than a fall which results in a broken hip and permanent immobility. Nursing homes will almost always settle their lawsuits before taking them to trial because they do not want the negative publicity associated with a legal battle over negligent treatment. Wrongful death charges are often settled for more money because of loss of companionship for the victim's surviving family members.
What steps should I take immediately after my loved one experiences a fall?
Taking action can help prevent abuse and neglect from repeating itself at a facility. Lawsuits may feel futile because they will not bring back a loved one or heal them more quickly; however, they can bring peace to families who feel betrayed by an institution in which they placed their trust. They can also provide comfort by reassuring a victim and their loved ones that the pain they experienced will not be perpetrated on others in the same position. Trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian work with victims of elder abuse and their families to help them navigate the medical, legal, and institutional complications of falls. To speak about your case, call them today at 800.529.6162 or contact them online.