Our population has a high number of seniors or those aged 65 and older. Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and the numbers increase each year. Many are now living in nursing home facilities with an estimated 1.4 million residents or about 5% of those 65 and over. That number is expected to grow to 3 million by 2030. Unfortunately, most nursing homes do not have stellar reputations for preventing falls and fractures or for preventing abuse.
Nursing home fatalities due to falls comprise 20% of deaths of those at least 65 years of age. Your risk of falling in a nursing home is twice that if you lived at home or in the community. About 50% to 75% of all nursing home residents fall with 10% to 20% of those resulting in serious injuries. About 1,800 residents die each year from injuries sustained in a fall.
Factors in Nursing Home Falls
There are some obvious reasons why elderly persons fall. Many have difficulty walking and suffer from weakened muscles or chronic conditions requiring them to use a walker or cane. Any small deviation or lack of attention can cause them to fall. Other reasons are:
- Environmental hazards—objects on the floor, torn carpeting, broken step, wet or slippery floor, poorly fitted wheelchairs, broken or inadequate bed rails
- Medications—these can cause drowsiness, dizziness, or lose of focus. The risk of a fall from medication is greatest in the week when medications are initially given
- Poorly fitted shoes or improper use of walker or cane
- Lack of care by nursing home staff
- Abuse by staff—striking a patient that causes a fall
Preventing Nursing Home Falls
Falls and fractures should not be an acceptable happenstance merely because a person is elderly. There are numerous ways a nursing home can prevent falls by implementing certain policies and protocols. These include:
- Identifying residents who have a high risk of falling due to medical or health conditions such as dementia and those who rely on walkers, wheelchairs and canes
- Checking canes and walkers to ensure they are adequate and that the resident knows how to use them
- Monitoring the floors for items that can cause a fall
- Checking carpets, stairs, rails, and floors
- Not allowing anyone to walk on a freshly mopped or waxed floor
- Reviewing medications to see which can cause drowsiness or dizziness
- Implementing exercise programs that can strengthen bones and muscles and reduce the incident of falls
- More adaptive equipment such as raised toilet seats, lowered beds, and handrails
- Training staff in how to prevent falls
Use of restraints on beds was once standard in nursing homes but were shown to actually increase the number of falls, and so are not used except in rare instances. However, guardrails for some residents can prevent these patients from falling out of bed or give them support when arising.
Injuries from Nursing Home Falls
Any kind of fall can result in a serious injury. Hip fractures are common since many residents suffer from osteoporosis, a softening of bones that comes with age. About 95% of all hip fractures in this age group are from a fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). For many of these victims, they will be immobilized for the remainder of their lives. Other injuries are arm and leg fractures and head injuries ranging from mild concussions to traumatic brain injuries (TBI). A TBI sufferer can have experience:
- Cognitive changes in memory, judgement and learning
- Sensory perception changes—taste, smell, touch, hearing
- Communication difficulties
- Emotional and personality changes
What a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Can Do
Falls and fractures should not be expected or ignored. Instead, you should demand an investigation of why your loved one fell. Elder Protective Services or the Department of Health are charged with investigating possible abuse, but you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer who can work with the agency investigating the fall for evidence of possible abuse or negligence.
Most nursing homes are short of staff and many hire poorly trained individuals or even those with criminal records. Suspected abuse is required to be reported but not all homes adhere to this requirement. An investigation can show that the home lacked adequate staff, failed to follow reporting requirements, had faulty railings, torn carpeting, slippery floors, poorly illuminated hallways, and little to no adaptive equipment. Medications for your loved one might have been skipped or higher than prescribed dosages were administered that caused your parent to become dizzy or disoriented.
Compensation in Nursing Home Injury Cases
A seasoned and knowledgeable nursing home abuse lawyer can get your loved one the compensation he or she deserves. Damages in these cases may include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering damages are often higher than for other categories. Your attorney can demonstrate how your loved one’s quality of life has changed for the worse, such as permanent immobilization, requiring pain medications for long periods that can lead to addiction, permanent cognitive changes, decreasing life expectancy.
Retain Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Paul Tetzel
Nursing home abuse claims are not your typical personal injury cases. They require an investigation by the state and the advocacy of an experienced lawyer who can assist in an investigation, request documentation, take depositions, and determine if abuse or negligence was the cause of your loved one’s injuries. Call attorney Paul Tetzel at 617-933-3858 for a free consultation about your nursing home abuse claim.