Every second of every day in the United States, an older adult falls, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This makes falls the leading cause of injury and death among older Americans. With close to 2 million people over 65 living in nursing homes, falls, and the serious consequences that often result, have become a major problem in these facilities.
Falls can result in a variety of critical outcomes that include broken bones, hospitalization, infections, fear of subsequent falls and loss of independence. Sadly, the majority of falls that occur in nursing homes and assisted living facilities could be prevented with proper supervision, improved staff training, and astringent fall prevention protocol.
Without these preventative measures, falls can have a variety of negative consequences, many of which are serious, life-threatening and even fatal:
- Broken bones, especially broken hips
- Traumatic brain injury
- Infection from a wound incurred during the fall or from subsequent treatment
- Risk of dependence on opiate pain medication
- Residents become reluctant to leave their rooms or beds for fear of falling again
- Reduced participation in group meals and social activities
- Isolation and depression
The Illinois Council on Long-Term Care, a healthcare association representing over 200 nursing facilities serving 35,000 nursing home residents, developed a standardized Fall prevention protocol in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Public Health. This protocol recommends a fall-risk assessment and implementation of a fall prevention plan for every resident, as well as an incident report for every fall. The assessment includes checking for issues that increase the likelihood of falling.
Here are some additional steps nursing homes can take to maintain a safer environment and prevent unnecessary falls:
- Assessing patients after a fall to identify and address risk factors and treat any underlying medical conditions
- Educating staff about fall risk factors and prevention strategies
- Reviewing prescribed medicines to assess potential risks and benefits
- Adapting the nursing home environment to make it easier for residents to move around safely, including grab bars, raised toilet seats, lower bed heights and handrails in hallways
- Providing at-risk patients with hip pads to help prevent a hip fracture if a fall occurs
- Providing exercise programs to improve balance, strength, walking ability, and physical functioning
- Appropriate training for residents in behavioral strategies to avoid potentially hazardous situations
When nursing homes fail to initiate and maintain practices designed to keep residents safe, they can be subject to a negligence lawsuit.
If you believe a loved one has suffered harm from a fall, or any other injury caused by nursing home abuse or neglect, contact us immediately for a free consultation.