Nursing Home Falls
Nursing home falls can be deadly for the elderly. Reasons for falls include medication changes, low blood pressure, and infection. Falls can often be avoided and are often caused by neglect, when vulnerable older people are left unable to move on their own.
If someone you love has suffered a nursing home fall, and you are not sure what you can do about it, contact us for a free consultation. We can help you to determine whether neglect led to the fall, get a trustworthy medical provider to assess your loved one, and help you hold the nursing home accountable if neglect caused your loved one to fall.
The injury attorneys at Thompson Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have experienced nursing home abuse. Our offices are conveniently located in Chandler, Peoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call.
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Keep reading to learn how falls can happen and what you can do to help a loved one who has suffered a fall.
Why Do Nursing Home Falls Occur?
Nursing home falls can happen due to:
• Poor mobility
• Residents being left unattended
• Residents being vulnerable
• Hazards in the environment not being handled properly
• Side effects of medicine
• Low blood pressure
• Changes in medication or general changes in health condition
Aging comes with changes to health and wellbeing that affect balance and spatial awareness. The elderly deal with degenerative eye conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, which can all reduce vision.
Problems with vision aren’t the only issue that can affect an elderly person’s balance. Nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis can reduce mobility too, increasing the risk of falling.
Staff should be aware of these conditions for each resident. Sadly, staff shortages, inexperience, and lack of training can lead to residents being left alone and unable to move safely.
Environmental hazards also put elders at risk of following. Things like:
• Uneven floors
• Poor lighting
• Poorly fitted wheelchairs and beds
• Spills that haven’t been cleaned up
• Furniture that is in disrepair.
Simple movements can be hard for nursing home residents. Crossing a room and getting in and out of chairs or bed should be done under supervision. Something as minor as wearing shoes that don’t fit properly could cause a fall. Care staff should always be vigilant to prevent falls.
So how do you know if neglect is the cause of a nursing home fall? If your loved one fell while trying to move around hazards, using faulty or broken equipment, or was not dressed properly, neglect might be the cause.
How Serious Can Nursing Home Falls Be?
A fall can be deadly within a nursing home setting, especially if the resident is left alone or has suffered serious internal injury. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Center, a nursing home with 100 residents will report between 100-200 falls in a typical year. That’s at least one per resident.
Most falls result in broken bones, including a broken wrist, ankle, hip, or arm. Older people have lower bone density, thinner skin, and other health conditions that make their bones more fragile. A nursing home resident who breaks a bone may have to deal with months of rehabilitation. In some cases the injury may be so severe that it results in a permanent disability. This can lead to other complications like infection, head injury, hospitalization, or even death.
The Nursing Home Abuse Center reports that of the 1.5 million US people living in a nursing home, around 1,800 individuals die from falls in any given year.
Are Nursing Home Falls Preventable?
Nursing home falls are preventable if:
• Staff are given the right training
• There are enough staff to adequately care for every resident
• Facilities are regularly checked for faults or hazards.
Nursing home staff must take the necessary precautionary measures. They need to remain vigilant and work towards improving the health and safety of all residents consistently.
When a fall happens as a direct result of abuse or neglect, family members may not be aware there is an issue.. Residents may be left for hours at a time after falling, unsupervised and possibly unable to move themselves.
Family members need to be able to distinguish between accidents and obvious fault on the part of the nursing home. Facilities should have procedures in place to make sure that staff check on high-risk residents frequently and assist them every time they need to move.
What Can I do to Prevent a Fall in a Nursing Home For My Loved One?
If your loved one is living in a nursing home and you’re concerned about their safety or mobility, you can ask staff to observe them over a period. This will help you understand what level of care and support they need and judge whether the nursing home can provide it.
When you visit your family member,, have a look around their bedroom as well as the common rooms to make sure there are no environmental hazards. Check for things like steps, uneven floor, water leaks, or broken furniture that could easily cause a fall.
If you notice something is missing or needs repair or changing, be sure to tell the staff or management. You can make specific requests for things like low beds, floor mats, and bed rails, which can all help significantly reduce the risk of falling for your loved one.
As you notice your loved one’s mobility declining, you are entitled to request equipment like a wheel chair, walking stick, or a frame to help prevent any accidents.
What Rights do Nursing Home Residents Have?
Arizona state law requires all nursing homes to clearly display resident rights on the premises. Also, nursing home residents or their legal representative must receive a copy of nursing home resident rights when they first join the facility.
Arizona nursing home resident rights include the right to:
• Be free of abuse, neglect, exploitation, manipulation, coercion, seclusion, and unnecessary restraint
• Receive aid from others in understanding, exercising, and protecting each resident’s rights
• Be fully informed of each resident’s medical conditions and overall health status
• Receive treatment that respects and supports each resident’s choices, individuality, abilities, and strengths
• Withdraw consent or refuse treatment before it is initiated
• Be informed of the facility’s complaint process and policies on health care directives
• Receive a referral to an alternative facility if the current facility cannot provide proper physical or behavioral services
Who is Responsible for a Nursing Home Fall?
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities must provide a level of care that is suitable to the basic standard of living and safety measures. If injury or death occurs when a patient or resident is under the care and supervision of a nursing home facility or employed staff member, the nursing home may be legally responsible.
You will need an experienced legal professional to investigate the nursing home’s practices to figure out whether the facility is at fault and can be held accountable. Contact us today for a free consultation.
How Can I Know if a Fall Caused my Loved One’s Death?
If you’re uncertain about the cause of death or if you suspect that the death could have been caused by a nursing home fall, you will need to request a medical examination and investigation.
Usually, someone does not just fall down and die immediately. Falls lead to problems like fractures, sores, bruises, or wounds that may then lead to further health complications. A fall can cause emotional, psychological, or physical issues, which may eventually lead to a decline in health, and ultimately, death.
Hiring an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer will help you determine whether the fall was a direct cause of death. A lawyer can help you find an expert medical witness to investigate and testify to the cause of your loved one’s death.
How Much Financial Compensation Can I Claim From a Fall Case?
The compensation you get in a nursing home fall claim depends on whether the case reaches trial, or a settlement is agreed outside of court. There are two main categories of damages: compensatory damages and
• Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for losses that resulted from the injury. These include things like medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. In a case where a fall results in death, the compensation amount will reflect that.
• Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for his or her conduct and deter similar conduct in the future. Punitive damages are typically only awarded if the behavior was particularly egregious or reprehensible eg. there was solid evidence of neglect or abuse that resulted in the fall being unavoidable.
If both parties can’t agree on a compensation amount, they go through the trial process and rely on a jury’s verdict to decide the case. This means the jury will decide if a plaintiff should be compensated, and if so, how much money they should receive. The total amount awarded will depend on the facts and circumstances of each individual case.
What Steps Should I Take if my Loved One Experiences a Fall?
Nursing homes have a contractual responsibility to prevent falls, accidents, and injuries from happening. If your loved one had an unexplained fall, you should take the necessary legal action to make sure something similar doesn’t happen again.
While legal action can’t reverse the damage done to a loved one’s health or life, it can bring peace to families who feel betrayed by an institution they trusted. It can also provide comfort by reassuring a victim and their loved ones that others won’t have to go through the same pain.
Nursing homes are responsible for the safety and care of the residents at all times. If someone you love had a fall while in the care of a nursing home, contact us today for help.
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