As a former hospital administrator, I’m appreciate accrediting organizations like The Joint Commission. They’re always pushing to make healthcare safer by implementing new standards that hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities must follow to stay accredited.
The Joint Commission is in a unique position to know what type of medical errors happen too often. Then they create new requirements to help make these mistakes less common and, thus, improve patient safety.
For example, consider the problem of falls. It’s the most common injury for Americans 65 and older. While many falls occur at home, patient falls remain a significant problem at hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs).
The Joint Commission recently announced a “Speak Up” campaign to encourage patients and families to take an active role in preventing falls. When hospitalized or in a nursing home, the campaign recommends that patients:
• Always use the call button to ask for help getting out of bed.
• Pay attention to what your doctors or nurses tell you about your risk of falling.
• Tell the doctor or nurse if your medicine makes you sleepy, light-headed, dizzy, sluggish, unbalanced or confused.
• Don’t feel embarrassed asking for help going to the toilet.
• Wear non-slip socks or footwear.
• Lower the height of the bed and the side rails.
Nursing home malpractice
As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I’ve come to the sad realization that tort reform laws discriminate against the elderly. By enacting damages caps, Texas tort reform statutes devalue the lives of seniors and create an economic incentive for facility owners to under-staff. There’s little surprise that survey after survey ranks Texas dead last among the states when it comes to nursing home safety and quality of care.
I’ve had countless clients and families who’ve shared with me that nursing facility staffing was so low that they pressed the call button for 30 minutes straight and a nurse or aide never showed up. It’s common to hear them describe the hallways as a ghost town. In some instances, families decided to call 911 from a nursing home just to get help!
Sometimes the request for help could be for something as simple as needing to go to the bathroom, but without help it can still be dangerous for at-risk patients. I have represented plaintiffs in lawsuits where falls led to broken bones, head injury, and even death.
The standard of care requires physicians and nurses to assess and document a patient’s fall risk and doctors to order appropriate fall precautions. While The Joint Commission’s recommendations aim to get patients and families involved in managing inpatient fall risk, quite often that’s just not enough.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a fall in a hospital or nursing home, then contact a top-rated, experienced medical malpractice lawyer for help in investigating your potential claim.