IDPH has cited and fined Warren Park Health & Living Center nursing home in Chicago after a resident there accessed the stairwell and suffered a fall in which she suffered a brain bleed.
Federal regulations regarding nursing home falls provide that the nursing home environment should be as free of accident hazards as possible. For nursing home residents, stairwells pose a serious risk of falls and injury. This is because many nursing home residents have strength and/or balance problems which make the use of stairs especially hazardous.
Compounding the risk associated with the use of stairs is the fact that stairs are usually out of the line of sight for staff members, so they will not be in a position to offer help to residents who need help and attempt to go up and down the stairs. Additionally, if a fall occurs, the fall and any injury that occurs may not be timely discovered which can result in delaying the receipt of care. This can have fatal consequences where a resident suffers an injury such as a brain bleed.
To alleviate the risk of stairwell falls in a nursing home setting, access to the stairwells by residents should be restricted. The most common means by which this is accomplished is either: (1) locking the stairwells so you can only get in the stairwell with a key or (2) more commonly, they are secured with a key pad access system which limits access to the stairwell or sounds an alarm when someone uses the stairwell without the proper code. However, as we have seen in situations where the resident has eloped or wandered from the nursing home, the alarm system is ineffective where the key pad is disabled or the access code is commonly known among the residents (see here, here, here, and here for examples of this).
The resident at issue lived on the second floor of this nursing home and had a friend who she liked to visit who lived on the third floor of the nursing home. She would frequently use the stairwell to get from the second to the third floor. She was a fall risk, as she had a history of falls, and we know that having one nursing home fall tends to beget additional falls.
On the day of this nursing home fall, she was in the stairwell when she either lost her balance or tripped and fell. She hit her head and was knocked unconscious. She suffered a laceration to the head which required surgery, but more significantly, suffered a brain bleed when she fell. This is an injury which can progress, and if left untreated can have catastrophic consequences.
The investigation into this incident showed that the key pad access system for the stairwell had been disarmed, so residents were able to freely access the stairwell, and thereby be exposed to the hazards of going up and down the stairs. Exposing residents to risk of harm this way is a violation of federal regulations.
One of our core beliefs is that nursing homes are built to fail due to the business model they follow and that unnecessary accidental injuries and wrongful deaths of nursing home residents are the inevitable result. Order our FREE report, Built to Fail, to learn more about why. Our experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers are ready to help you understand what happened, why, and what your rights are. Contact us to get the help you need.
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