Comfort and safety are the hallmarks of good long-term care. For older adults, falling while in or getting out of the shower or bathtub can result in serious consequences, including death. Falls are notably dangerous in bathrooms and other areas where slick floors can be expected.
While families can work to encourage and build strength and confidence in their loved ones, working with a nursing home or similar aide is meant to be a foolproof, long-term solution to fall prevention. When a nursing home fails to accommodate the essential needs of your loved one, they can suffer irreparable damages.
About Falls in Older Adults
Falls are not always serious, but they are sometimes preventable. The trouble with falls in older adults is their vulnerability to health risks and complications from injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that falls are the top cause of “fatal and nonfatal injuries” in older adults. Beyond physical injuries, falls can shatter emotional stability too.
Older people are at a higher risk for falls due to health conditions that happen as a result of aging and other health conditions that are not necessarily due to aging.
For example, older adults are more likely than younger people to have problems with balance and muscle strength, vision impairments, and other onset health conditions that affect the nervous or cardiovascular systems. When the internal chemistry of older adults is offset, it can affect their physical sense of balance, too.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps that family members and care staff can take to reduce the risk of falls in older adults.
Prevention Measures in Nursing Home Construction
Preventative measures are important for all older adults, whether they reside in a nursing home facility or at home with an aide assisting them. Many American nursing homes must follow fall-preventative building codes set by state and federal laws in order to receive funding, but that does not mean that all nursing home organizations are properly compliant.
Safety and fall-prevention building and maintenance codes could vary by state, but they may include any of the following requirements:
- Use of non-slip mats on slick floors, in bathrooms, dining areas, and bedrooms
- Cautionary signage and protocols for cleaning up spills and slippery floors
- Lighting for pathways and well-traveled areas
- Support bars for showers, hallways, and bedrooms
- Walkway width and cautionary structures for stairways
In building construction and maintenance, following state and federal guidelines is important to minimize the risk of falls and to limit the extent of injuries when they do happen.
Prevention Measures in Routine Health Monitoring
Your loved one’s care plan might include the steps that nursing home staffers would take to prevent falls. Nursing homes are responsible for providing a constant safety net for your loved one, which is not limited to monitoring their condition and meeting their health needs at all times.
Generally, a licensed physician or medical professional will carry out routine health monitoring procedures to keep nursing home staff informed about their care plan needs. With routine health monitoring for seniors, this may include the following procedures:
- Vision Tests: Eyesight can change rapidly, so it is important for older people to be monitored for any changes, regardless of whether they already wear prescription glasses.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): Regularly checking the strength and activity of the heart is important for treating and diagnosing common health problems like dizziness, stress, and physical activity.
- Reflexive, Strength, and Balancing Tests: Simple tests can help to identify any issues with strength and balance, minimizing the chances of a fall from the start.
Nursing home staff are responsible for assessing the day-to-day care needs of your loved one and keeping an open line of communication with your loved one’s medical care team. Without one or any of the preventative measures listed above, your loved one is at an increased risk for falls and costly, traumatic injuries.
Failure to communicate or follow the advice of medical professionals can be considered negligent behavior on the part of the nursing home staff.
Elder Abuse Laws
Nursing home and elder abuse laws will vary by state, but they typically align with laws set by the Federal Government to prevent abuse, injury, and neglectful care.
If your loved one is living in a nursing home or has a similar long-term care arrangement, the chances are good that they are protected from abuse, exploitation, and neglect under the Elder Justice Act, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA).
Nursing home residents are protected by laws in the event of abuse and neglect, regardless of the intentions of staff. Nursing home staff is legally obligated to provide care that gives older adults as much dignity, health, and well-being as possible. If your loved one recently fell while in or getting out of the shower or bathtub under the care of a nursing home, the nursing home could be liable for the cost of injuries.
Protect and Defend Your Loved One
You can seek legal representation after your loved one falls in the shower or bathtub.
Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, and request to work with a nursing home lawyer for your loved one’s fall-related injuries at (800) 842-6336.