One of the most common injuries at a nursing home is when a resident falls. Injuries from falls at nursing homes are an incredibly significant cause of disability in the elderly. A simple fall can create a severe functional impairment in an older person and will decrease the quality of life of that fall victim for the remainder of their life. Physical Therapy works well in the young. It may work, but not incredibly well as we approach middle age. But in the elderly, it is exceptionally difficult to overcome a disabling injury. Among the vulnerable, elderly patient population up to 7% of elderly nursing home residents suffer at least one fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This falling rate is literally twice as high in nursing homes compared to the fall rate for the elderly who live at home or with family. Why and how can that be? What causes nursing home residents to fall so often? Moreover, the CDC also states that more than 20% of nursing home residents who do fall have a serious injury as a result of that fall.
Nursing homes are built with the elderly in mind. They have low slope ramps. They have bathroom bars for balance. They have high sinks and toilets. They have non-slip tile in the bathroom and kitchen/cafeteria. But falls continue to occur in nursing homes occur for a variety of reasons. Granted some of those reasons must relate to the patient themselves. There are factors in patient capacity that are beyond the nursing home’s control. There are also environmental factors that can cause falls. Some nursing home residents, especially the elderly, suffer with comorbid conditions that make their gait and balance deficient. The comorbid conditions would include dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and hearing and vision impairments. They also can include diabetes mellitus, neuropathy, and vascular disease. Many elderly patients also have judgment issues related to their own capacity; some believing they can do things they clearly cannot handle. All of those factors increase the likelihood of an elderly patient having a fall.
But that does explain why Nursing Homes have double the fall rate as non-nursing home patients in the same capacity or demographic. We have found that many nursing homes are not caring for their elderly residents in a manner consistent with Florida law. Some nursing home falls occur due to controllable environmental conditions. The nursing home will allow hazards to develop or continue due to poor systems within the home itself. Cluttered public access ways, blocked pathways, slippery floors from cleaning or waxing often cause a resident to fall unnecessarily. Sometimes the conditions are long-standing and dangerous but are unrepaired or changed due to the age and acceptability of the condition, like poor tile choices in older homes, or poor lighting choices in hallways or rooms. Believe it or not, some nursing homes don’t even supply the proper and mandatory safety equipment for the resident’s bathrooms, like grab-bars or anti-slip mats in the shower.
Of course, if a resident falls because their hip spontaneously erupted there is no legal matter. But in truth, how often does that really happen? Not too much! When a resident falls and injures themselves it is more often than not the fault of the nursing home and some failure in their systems or their construction. When that is the case, the nursing home will be liable for all the damages which were caused by the fall.
When we evaluate the nursing home in our investigation of these nursing home fall down claims, we look at whether the nursing home failed to properly evaluate and assess the resident for their falling risk when the patient entered the home and how many times they revisited that resident’s capacity while living at the home. People don’t get more athletic with age. If your loved one is in the nursing home it is far more likely that over time their individual capacity will diminish. The nursing home is responsible to stay aware of those changes in capacity and assist your loved one in staying safe, even in their diminished capacity. Some nursing homes fail to institute modifications to enable safer mobility of patients who have a high risk for falling. Some fail to provide clean and safe walkways and rooms for their residents. It is the responsibility of the home to keep the resident’s living quarters free of hazards. For the average person, a pencil on the ground holds no danger. But to the resident of a nursing home, a pencil can pose a mortal danger if they lose their footing just slipping a few inches. It is that easy to harm a disabled person, and nursing homes know this fact all too well. They must not only protect their residents, but they must develop and educate their staff to implement each aspect of their fall prevention program.
If your loved one is injured in a fall-down accident in a nursing home or assisted living facility, don’t take the word of the staff on how the accident happened. Get videotaped evidence. Get witness statements. Investigate the home’s fall-down history. There is the chance it was not their fault. I am sure they will say they are not at fault. But you can’t take their word for it. You must fight to obtain the truth and get your loved one the care and compensation they need to recover as best they can after a fall.
If you have any questions related to nursing homes or assisted living facilities please call Marcie Dodson, JD at LaBovick Law Group. She will be happy to guide you through the difficult analysis of nursing home negligence. Since graduating from Cornell Law School Ms. Dodson has worked tirelessly on Plaintiff cases. She has handled the analysis of many multi-million dollar cases and has the experience to help you and your family through your nursing home or assisted living facility claim. She is available for free consultations at (561) 623-3681. Don’t wait. Call for your free help today.