Falls in Nursing Home Facilities
When you place a beloved relative in a nursing home, the last thing you expect is that they’ll be injured in someone else’s care. Unfortunately, incidents such as falls at nursing homes are more common than you might think, and many of them are preventable. Nursing home falls are preventable and unacceptable events. If your elderly loved one suffered injuries or even wrongful death as a result of fall-related injuries, you might have a valid claim.
At Lipton Law, our dedicated Michigan elder abuse attorneys understand how challenging it can be for victims to keep a level head and respond to the mistreatment of a loved one. We’ve worked hard to earn the legal experience that lets us keep you informed as we defend your rights to compensation. Our highly knowledgeable staff is ready to support you when you file a claim against negligent parties. To schedule your free legal case review, please call our trusted law firm at 248-557-1688 today.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Falls?
When nursing homes and assisted living facilities fail to uphold the appropriate standards of care necessary to keep their residents safe, this often constitutes nursing home negligence or even nursing home abuse. Nursing home residents and their family members have the right to seek compensation when falls happen due to negligence. Families of aging adults often don’t have the time or the knowledge necessary to care for elderly parents and loved ones. For this reason, nursing facilities are often a better option for older adults.
However, nursing home abuse has become a prevalent problem in recent years. Although skilled nursing facilities are expected to adhere strictly to certain state and federal guidelines, negligent hiring practices and understaffing can lead to falls in nursing home facilities. When nursing home residents fall in Michigan, Lipton Law is here to represent those victims and their families when they seek legal help. Contact a skilled nursing home abuse lawyer with our law firm to discuss your legal rights and options.
The Dangers of Falls in Nursing Homes
Many people already understand that falls are particularly dangerous for older adults, but many don’t understand exactly why that is. Nursing home patients are often old and frail, which means they are more susceptible to serious injuries. Their skin is much thinner, and their bodies are generally weaker than younger adult bodies. This is why nursing home resident falls are so serious.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 95% of hip fractures result from falls. If a nursing home resident suffers a serious injury from a fall, they may endure a dramatic decrease in their quality of life, as well as the development of chronic health conditions.
Another potential consequence of major injury falls is the development of certain mental health problems after a resident’s first fall. Even if they did not suffer injuries, some residents could develop depression and anxiety, as well as feelings of helplessness. They may isolate themselves socially, significantly decrease their level of activity, and gradually lose even more strength. When older adults fall, they often fear what could happen if they were to fall again. For this reason, it is vitally important that nursing homes develop comprehensive fall prevention strategies in order to protect residents.
Risk Factors for Nursing Home Falls
Certain nursing home residents are more prone to falls than other residents. They might have certain physical or mental conditions that increase their chances of suffering a fall even if nursing homes take all necessary precautions to prevent them. However, it is a nursing home’s job to identify risk factors and take steps to enhance patient safety for residents prone to falls. According to the National Library of Medicine, the following risk factors exist for nursing home residents.
- Balance problems
- Gait or walking disorders or difficulties
- General weakness
- Vision problems
- Cognitive impairment
- Certain medications
- Postural hypotension (a dramatic drop in blood pressure when standing from a sitting or lying position)
- Other environmental hazards
Statistics on Nursing Home Falls
Unfortunately, nursing home falls occur quite often. In fact, they happen more often than many people might think. An even more alarming problem is that only around 57% of nursing home falls result in a report being filed about the incident. Despite the fact that nursing home reporting standards are so poor, we still know for sure that falls in nursing homes are far more common than they should be. Below, we include some important statistics regarding nursing home falls and fall-related injuries.
- How does a nursing home compare to other forms of assisted living in terms of fall rates? Anywhere between 50% and 75% of nursing home residents suffer a fall each year. This is twice the rate of falls in community living facilities.
- Only around 5% of elderly adults live in nursing homes. However, around 20% of fall-related deaths occur among nursing home residents.
- Each year, approximately 1,800 nursing home residents die as a result of fall injuries or complications.
- Around 10% of all nursing home falls result in serious injuries.
- Around 33% of residents in nursing homes will fall more than once in a single year. In fact, the average fall rate per person is around 2.6 falls per year.
- Fractures, or broken bones, occur in anywhere from 2% to 6% of nursing home falls.
- One of the most common causes of nursing home falls is environmental hazards. Around 16% to 27% of all falls occur from environmental hazards.
- Approximately 35% of fall injuries happen to residents who cannot walk on their own or who need walking aids. Residents who cannot walk without assistance are considered a fall risk and should be closely monitored by nursing home staff members.
What Causes Nursing Home Falls?
So why exactly do around half of nursing home residents fall each year? What causes these patient falls and serious injuries?
It’s important for resident safety to have plenty of handrails, guard rails, and properly maintained equipment. Without these preventative measures, hazards arise that can pose an increased risk of falls to residents. Other important hazards to note include the following.
- Resident beds that are set too high
- Personal items that are difficult to reach
- Poor lighting
- Clothing that is difficult to get in and out of
- Living areas that are cluttered with trip hazards
- Wheelchairs that have bad brakes or that are poorly maintained
- Wheel beds that do not lock or are unstable
- Wet or slick floors
- Uneven floor surfaces
- Unstable or broken furniture
Certain medical conditions and medications can not only make a nursing home resident’s life more difficult, but they can also increase the risk of falls. This is especially true when medication errors come into play. It is important for nursing home staff members to develop a fall prevention and falls management program for residents at their facility. Certain medications and health conditions make this difficult, but it is still the responsibility of the nursing home to take all necessary precautions to prevent falls. Below, we list several medical conditions and medications that could put residents at a high risk of falling.
- Having vision problems and wearing glasses or contact lenses
- Having a tendency to wander
- Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other forms of cognitive impairment
- Huntington’s disease
- Having a previous history of falls
- Seizure disorders or epilepsy
- Being under or overweight
- Having a previous or existing hip fracture or hip joint problem
- Using walking aids like crutches, canes, or walkers
- Certain medications, such as sedatives or antidepressants
Nursing homes often offer certain activities for residents to participate in, such as exercise programs, dancing, and many other activities. However, it is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to understand which residents are not fit to participate in some of these activities. Residents with mobility issues likely should not engage in highly physical activities, as this can greatly increase their risk of falls.
Staffers in nursing homes are also responsible for the regular supervision of residents. This is to protect residents’ well-being and ensure that each resident’s quality of life is maintained. If a fall injury occurs when a staff member should have been supervising a resident, this could constitute nursing home abuse or neglect. Serious consequences can arise if a nursing home fails to properly take care of residents.
This may seem obvious, but staffers at nursing homes are also responsible for ensuring that there are no trip hazards in their facilities. If a nursing home fails to clean spills, and remove hazards from hallways, common areas, and rooms, they could be held liable for a resident’s injuries. Staffers should be properly trained on how to identify and correct any environmental hazards that they see in the facility.
Can I Sue After a Nursing Home Fall?
Absolutely. Seeking compensation after your elderly loved one suffers fall injuries is perfectly reasonable if the fall happened due to negligence. The legal team at Lipton Law has extensive experience advocating justice for nursing home residents and their families. We believe that victims of nursing home abuse deserve justice for the injuries and suffering they endured. Our nursing home lawyers are here to guide you through the often complex legal process of filing a claim, gathering evidence, and presenting your case in court.
Injuries and Losses That Can Occur from Nursing Home Falls
Various injuries and financial losses can stem from falls in nursing homes. In many cases, families are left with a mountain of medical expenses related to the fall that they simply can’t afford. When this happens, injured residents and their families deserve compensation for the nursing home negligence that caused the fall in the first place. Below, we give examples of common injuries and financial losses that can result from falls in nursing homes.
A traumatic brain injury is a common worry when it comes to fall injuries. This is partially because any kind of head injury is worrisome, but also because many elderly residents are on blood thinning medication. These medications greatly increase a resident’s risk of excessive or uncontrolled bleeding.
Another common worry is the possibility of back and spinal cord injuries. Back injuries often lead to chronic pain and a notable decrease in mobility. These injuries may also require extensive physical therapy, which can be very expensive and physically taxing on older residents.
Because the skin of older adults is so thin, cuts and bruises are unfortunately common. However, these seemingly minor injuries can become a much larger problem for older adults, especially for those on blood thinners.
Broken bones are another common result of falls in nursing homes. Specifically, hip fractures, wrist fractures, and arm fractures are common forms of broken bones after a serious fall. If complications arise from these broken bones, this can take the situation from bad to worse very quickly.
Another consequence of fall injuries is the decrease in a resident’s quality of life. When someone suffers debilitating injuries that reduce their mobility and independence, this can lead to depression, anxiety, and social isolation. They may be too afraid of falling again to participate in activities they once enjoyed. This is a possibility even if no injury occurs to the resident.
Lastly, physical therapy and extensive rehabilitation could be a necessity for those who suffer serious injuries during the fall. Medical bills related to ongoing care and rehabilitation can quickly add up, putting the resident or their family in a financial bind.
How Can Families Prevent Falls in Nursing Homes?
Families can take steps to reduce the risk of falls in nursing home facilities. Although they cannot control the actions of the nursing home staffers, they can take the following steps to ensure their loved one’s safety.
- Schedule and attend regular visits with your loved one. At these meetings, ask the staff about how they meet your loved one’s needs.
- Frequently call or visit your loved one to ensure that the nursing home is still adhering to the care plan that your loved one requires.
- When you visit, check to make sure that all of their personal items are easily accessible, ensure that their clothes and shoes fit properly, and check their mobility aids to verify that they are in good condition.
- If you have any concerns, bring those to the attention of the staff right away. Then, check in regularly to ensure that those concerns are addressed quickly and in an appropriate manner.
- While it is true that the nursing home has the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their residents, family members and visitors can help to prevent nursing home abuse by reporting the signs of it when they suspect it. It’s important to recognize the signs of nursing home neglect so that you may report it in a timely manner.
How Can Families Investigate a Nursing Home Fall?
If you suspect that your loved one has suffered from any form of nursing home neglect, it is imperative that you contact the proper authorities and report it immediately. The National Institute on Aging suggests that you should report suspected abuse as soon as you discover it. Waiting too long could lead to worsening injuries or health conditions. Families can contact the following resources to report abuse in nursing homes.
- Local law enforcement
- Your local long-term care ombudsman
- Seek professional medical advice from a doctor and have your loved one undergo a medical evaluation.
- The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)
- Search for helpful services through the Eldercare Locator online
- Contact Michigan’s Adult Protective Services (APS)
- Call a Michigan nursing home abuse lawyer for a free case review
Contact Our Michigan Nursing Home Fall Injury Lawyers Today
At Lipton Law, we understand how frustrating it can be to learn that your loved one’s injuries resulted from negligence in the very place that is supposed to provide them with care and comfort. Nursing homes must adhere to certain state and federal regulations in order to properly care for their residents. However, some facilities care more about making a profit rather than properly caring for their residents. If you suspect that your loved one has suffered or is suffering from a fall due to negligence, please call our Michigan personal injury lawyers at 248-557-1688 today for your free consultation.