According to the journal Annals of Long-Term Care, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defines a fall as “the inability of a person to maintain a desired standing, sitting, or prone position, resulting in a sudden drop to the ground.”
A fall can look like a resident slipping out of the seat of their wheelchair and onto the floor or like a standing resident dropping to their knees. A fall can also look like someone who drops from a prone position in a bed to the floor while trying to stand up.
What You Need to Know About the Danger of Falls
Falls can result in extremely serious injuries for vulnerable nursing home residents. For this reason, fall prevention is a primary area of focus for nursing home staff and administration. If the fall was preventable, the injured resident may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit. Nursing homes should try to take extra precautions to prevent the possibility of falls.
Understanding Fall Risks
Multiple situations can lead to an increased risk of a fall for a nursing home resident. The identification of these risks, along with constant maintenance and training on the part of the nursing home staff, is required to maintain a safe environment for residents.
Potential Causes of Falls
If a fall occurs in a nursing home, it likely occurred because of one of many possible factors, including:
- Mental impairment: where a resident has an illness or condition that may cause a sudden loss of balance.
- Medications: where some medications have a side effect that causes a loss of balance.
- Improper medications: where a staff member gave a resident the wrong medication or a wrong dose, leading to a bad reaction and a fall.
- Abuse: where a staff member pushes or strikes a resident, causing a fall.
- Vision problems: where a resident does not see a poorly marked tripping hazard.
- Improper maintenance: where nursing home staff members do not fix broken flooring or remove tripping and slipping hazards from walkways.
Other situations beyond those listed here can directly or indirectly cause a fall to occur. Some falls occur because of an accident, but many nursing home falls are preventable.
Injury Risks from Falls
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of five falls will result in a significant injury, which can include a broken bone or head trauma. At least 800,000 elderly patients require hospitalization each year after a fall.
According to a study in the journal Canadian Family Physician, once someone suffers a fall, the likelihood of that person falling again is roughly 50%.
Hip Fracture Concerns
Hip fractures are especially dangerous for an elderly person. A 2017 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine concluded that mortality is highest during the first year after a hip fracture.
For those who survive, hip fractures can result in a greatly reduced level of mobility after the injury. Some people never regain the same level of mobility they had prior to the hip fracture, necessitating a move to a nursing home while they receive physical therapy and learn new ways to perform basic skills like walking. The injured resident may require a significantly higher level of care after the hip fracture.
Additionally, a hip fracture often leads to surgery to repair the damage. This surgery can create its own health hazards.
Preventing Falls at a Nursing Home
Staff members receive instruction on how best to care for residents, including how to prevent falls. They should be able to spot potentially dangerous situations that could lead to a fall and subsequent injuries.
It is important that the nursing home staff follow their training when moving and transporting residents. Because falls can occur when a resident is standing, sitting, or lying down, only having one technique to move elderly residents is not adequate enough.
If you believe your loved one suffered a fall at a nursing home because of the improper action or inaction of a staff member, you can count on Pintas & Mullins Law Firm to stand up for your rights. Depending on the circumstances in the case, we may be able to help you pursue awards for damages, including:
- Pain and suffering
- Emergency care costs
- Subsequent surgery, physical therapy, and treatment
- Replacement of personal items
- And more
Call us today at (800) 842-6336 for a free consultation.