Falling down can create mild to serious injuries in anyone, but when it comes to fall injuries sustained by nursing home residents, the results can be devastating. Even a minor fall from a short height, even from a seated position, could result in traumatic injuries, such as broken bones, brain injuries, cuts and bruises, and permanent disability. In the worst cases, an elderly victim of a fall accident could even be killed by the associated injuries.
When an elderly patient is placed in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it is typically because they require the assistance that would prevent falls. Thus, when nursing home residents are not properly cared for and assisted with their everyday activities, they are even more at risk of fall injuries than they would be if they were still physically able to live on their own. Because there are so many fall injuries in nursing homes, and because they can be so traumatic, it is important to look at the most common causes of nursing home falls, how they can be prevented, and what you can do if your loved one is injured.
Different Factors That Cause Fall Injuries in Nursing Homes
To open the discussion of factors that cause fall injuries in nursing homes, we must address the fact that most nursing homes are understaffed. While they are required to fill out a form concerning the fall risk of each patient, these forms are not always completed or updated as they should be. Some nursing home residents require walkers, wheel chairs, and various other forms of equipment to prevent falls. In some cases, this equipment becomes damaged or is simply not provided as it should be. Those who are physically or mentally disabled are at greatest risk and should receive the appropriate care and equipment to minimize that risk.
Beyond the need for adequate safety equipment, assistance, and supervision, there are also hazards in many nursing homes that can put even the most capable of elderly adults at risk of a fall injury. For example, spilled liquids can create a slipping hazard, as can bathroom accidents, when the elderly person is not assisted as they should be. Any obstacles in the path of the elderly could result in tripping hazards, as well. This means that a lack of adequate cleaning and maintenance of the facility could cause a fall accident to happen.
Then, there are cases where the bathing facilities are not up to date in terms of safety standards. It is very easy for someone to slip in the shower or while getting out of a bath. The elderly in nursing homes should have adequate equipment, such as safety rails to hold onto and sufficient assistance and care when required. If someone is at a higher risk of falling down, then they should be supervised and/or assisted with bathing.
A further cause of fall injuries in nursing homes involves those patients who require the most assistance from well trained staff, such as those who cannot get out of bed on their own. If the staff is not well trained in transferring such patients, then accidents could happen, and the patient could be unintentionally dropped and harmed in this way. If the patient is losing muscle mass or is on medication that might cause dizziness or drowsiness, then they are also at a greater risk of falling if they do not have the supervision and assistance that they need.
The most troubling cases of nursing home falls are those that are caused by abuse and willful neglect. This can be seen in the cases where chemical restraints (unneeded tranquilizing medications) are used to keep the patient subdued and cases where nobody is keeping the environment clean or providing the right equipment and assistance.
The Necessity of Adequate Supervision in Nursing Home Facilities
A common theme when it comes to the causes of nursing home fall injuries is the lack of adequate supervision and assistance. While the actual causes are varied, most hazards could be eliminated and risks minimized by adequate care. As we mentioned from the start, most nursing homes are understaffed, and the staff members that they have are often undertrained.
The lack of effective training can lead to mistakes when it comes to transferring patients or administering medication. The lack of adequate staffing can lead to fatigue and insufficient numbers to provide the appropriate supervision for each patient. Then, when fall accidents do occur, the victims may not be properly observed or treated in the aftermath to ensure that there are no serious internal injuries, broken bones, or psychological effects.
If there are untreated internal injuries, the fall could end up being fatal when it didn’t have to be. If there are untreated broken bones, then the patient could be suffering in extreme pain for extended periods of time. If no one addresses the potential psychological effects, then the patient could be traumatized, depressed, and even fearful.
Preventing and Responding to Nursing Home Fall Injuries
To prevent your loved one from experiencing a fall injury in their nursing home facility, start by choosing the facility wisely. Investigate the quality of care provided, talk to the staff, and look for signs of a safe or unsafe environment. You should feel comfortable asking questions, and if your loved one is at a higher risk of falls than the average patient, make a point of emphasizing this and making sure that they are going to receive the care and supervision that they need.
Once you’ve selected the best nursing home facility for your loved one, the work does not end there. You must follow up by visiting as often as you can. This is in the best interests of your loved one for multiple reasons, including their mental and emotional health, as well as their physical safety and wellbeing. Don’t let your loved one get lost in the system and neglected. You can also help your loved one to stay active and strong by taking them for walks or on outings
If your loved one is injured by a fall accident in their nursing home, make sure that you investigate the incident, and consider contacting a skilled Greenville nursing home abuse lawyer at Double Aught Injury Lawyers for a FREE consultation, as you may have a valid claim against the facility.
Bryan Ramey is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in the upstate of South Carolina. He graduated from The University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 27 years now. Bryan Ramey believes in representing the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.