Painter Law Firm often receives calls from patients or family members about problems in the care provided at nursing home facilities. One of the most frequent concerns that we hear about is falls of patients or residents at skilled nursing facilities.
Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that around 75% of elderly residents of nursing homes have at least one fall per year. The CDC estimates that about 20% of nursing home falls cause a serious injury.
When comparing these statistics to those of elderly people living at home or in the community, the problem with nursing home care comes into focus—the fall rate is about half of the nursing home rate. Many elderly people use medical alert systems at home, but depend on healthcare providers when admitted to a facility.
Nursing home fall risks
So, it begs the question of how is it that elderly patients seem to be better off outside a nursing home, then and in a nursing home, at least when it comes to falls?
Experts have studied why there are so many nursing home falls, and have come up with two explanations.
First, many nursing home residents have a number of medical conditions that affect their balance and ability to walk around. Some skilled nursing facility residents have cognitive illnesses, like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, or visual or hearing loss. All of these illnesses increase their fall risk.
Second, there can be environmental factors related to the facility itself that increase the risk of falls. These factors include things like wet or slippery floors, unclean or cluttered public areas, poor lighting, and absence of safety equipment, like grab bars or anti-slip mats, and bathrooms.
Planning ahead for fall prevention
Any time that an elderly patient falls, there is an extreme risk of starting a downward cascade that can lead to life-altering consequences. A broken hip, for example, requiring hip replacement can be a life-threatening situation. Breaks of this nature limit patient mobility, and when a person cannot get around and must spend more time in bed, it sets up a situation for development of bedsores. Many nursing homes do not manage or treat bedsores particularly well, meaning that they can develop into an infection and sepsis, and can even cause death.
In short, when it comes to nursing home falls, the best possible treatment is to prevent them from happening.
Medicare and Medicaid standards, as well as the general standard of care, starts with the broad obligation of skilled nursing facilities to provide clean and safe premises for all residents.
On top of that, nursing home facilities are required to have policies and procedures for a fall prevention program, and to make sure that staff members are educated on how to follow the program.
When it comes to identifying risks specific to a person, the standard of care further requires nursing homes accepting a new patient or resident to evaluate and assess for falling risks. For long-term residents, this is an ongoing process of re-evaluation and re-assessment, to minimize the risk of falls.
When patients are identified as having a fall risk, nursing homes are required to make modifications to enhance their safety and getting around. This includes equipment like walkers, canes, or wheelchairs, placement in a room with modifications like grab-bars and anti-slip mats, and ensuring availability of staff for assistance.
We are here to help
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of a fall in a nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or hospital, call the experienced attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential case.
Robert Painter is an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, doctors, and other healthcare providers. In 2017, he was recognized as one of Houston’s top lawyers buy both H Texas magazine and Houstonia magazine.