Keeping a parent or other loved one safe from injuries from falls is a common reason that families agree to a nursing home admission. Whether it is falling frequently at home or it is for rehabilitation following a hospital admission from illness, injury, or surgery, falls are a risk that families justifiably look to the nursing home staff to mitigate.
Falls are a well-recognized issue in the long-term care industry and assessing a resident’s fall risk is one of the standard assessments that are done in almost every nursing home immediately after the resident is admitted to the nursing home. There are some factors that place a resident at risk for falling, and these include:
- Musculoskeletal weakness/gait dysfunction
- Intermittent or constant confusion/dementia
- Neurologic disorders
- Vision deficits
- Medication usage
When a resident is admitted to a nursing home and is assessed as being a fall risk, the nursing home is obligated to develop a care plan to address the risk of falling. Some of the common measures that are taken to reduce fall risk include:
- Physical Therapy or restorative therapy to improve strength and balance
- Assistance or supervision while walking
- Placement of residents in areas where staff is nearby such as by the nurse’s station
- Use of a bed alarm, chair alarm, or mobility alarm
- Placement of the bed in a low position
- Use of floor mats or padding
- Use of bowel or bladder retraining
- Use of a toileting schedule
- Reduction in medications
- Keeping areas free and clear of tripping or slipping hazards
- Make sure that good footwear is in use at all times
- Use of assistive devices such as a cane or a walker
Once the care plan is put into place, it must be carried out on a day-to-day, shift-to-shift basis to ensure the safety of the resident. Moreover, the effectiveness of the care plan must be revised in light of experience and changes in the resident’s condition over time and then revised
The assessment and care plan are required by federal regulations, and the nursing home can be held liable if the staff (1) fails to perform a proper assessment of the resident’s risk of falling, (2) fails to develop a proper care plan that addresses the resident’s fall risk, (3) fails to carry out the care plan as required, or (4) fails to revise the care plan when necessary.
Falls commonly result in serious injuries for nursing home residents. Many nursing home residents suffer from osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, meaning that they sustain fractures more easily than other adults. Hip fractures are a common kind of injury to result from a nursing home fall, and these sometimes ultimately cause the wrongful death of the nursing home resident. Once a fall occurs, residents must be closely monitored for other conseuqences of the fall which may not be immediately apparent, such as a brain bleed. The most common set of steps to be taken after a fall is for the resident to be placed on the so-called 72 hour fall watch.
Most falls in nursing homes are not “accidents” the way a slip-and-fall in a grocery store is, and experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers know better than that. The truth is that most nursing home falls are due to shortcomings in the care planning process which is the true basis of how care is provided in a nursing home setting.
In our firm, we look closely at the care planning process and use shortcomings in that to frame how we prosecute nursing home fall cases:
- When there are shortcomings in the assessment or the plan itself, the fall can be seen as the inevitable result of poor care planning and not an “accident”;
- When there is a failure to carry out the steps called for in the care plan, we show how successful the nursing home was in preventing falls when the care plan was followed; and
- When there is a failure to revise the care plan, we show how it became inadequate over time.
Many nursing home falls result in the wrongful death of the resident. However, often this is not due to the fall itself but is instead due to complications and other issues which follow original injury, such as post-operative complications. Having a strong background in the medical issues helps our firm show that the fall was a cause of the death of the resident. Without this, the defense will strongly argue with the help of a shady medical “expert” that the cause of death is unrelated to the fall and would have occurred even if the fall had never happened.
Here is where you find answers to FAQ’s on nursing home falls.
Additional information on nursing home falls.
Falls are some of the most common types of cases our firm has handled over the years:
No Fall Prevention Care Plan Results in Fractured Leg (Cook County)
Fall From Commode Results in Hip Fracture (Winnebago County)
Unattended Resident Falls and Fractures Hip (Cook County)
Failed Fall Prevention Measures Result in Hip Fracture (Cook County)
Falls are also an issue that we address frequently in our blog:
We strongly believe that most nursing home falls are preventable with the development and implementation of a good fall prevention care plan. If your parent or loved one was injured or killed as a result of a fall in an Illinois nursing home, please contact our office as soon as possible.