Most falls in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are preventable. One or more falls can be a sign of nursing home neglect. These facilities should have fall protocols and prevention plans in place to help reduce the risk of falls from occurring. Below, our San Jose elder abuse lawyers discuss these protocols, common causes of falls, effects of falls, what to do after a fall and who may be liable.
Long Term Care Fall Protocols
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities should have protocols in place to reduce the risk of falls. Protocols may include:
- Assessing fall risk. Long term care facilities should assess each resident’s risk for falling. If a resident’s fall risk is high, then the facility should implement a customized fall prevention plan to reduce the risk of a fall.
- Monitoring residents. Staff should monitor at-risk residents when moving through the facility. They should also check on residents frequently and respond to call lights timely to assist residents to the bathroom.
- Fall-prevention equipment. Equipment may include walkers, wheelchairs, fall mats and grab bars.
- Alarms. Facilities should equip beds and chairs with alarms to alert staff if a resident gets up and needs assistance.
- Trained and adequate staffing. Staff should be trained in fall prevention techniques. Additionally, facilities should make sure that there are enough staff onsite to supervise all residents.
Causes of Falls in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities
Falls in nursing homes and assisted living facilities can occur for many reasons. A few common reasons may include:
- Health conditions. Age affects balance, gait and strength. Other health conditions or chronic illnesses like Alzheimer’s or hip problems can also affect balance and gait. Residents with these conditions should have extra supervision.
- Prescription medications. Side effects of certain medications may include dizziness and balance problems. Residents using medications that may cause these types of issues should have extra supervision.
- Lack of staff and improper training. There should be enough staff to supervise all residents. Staff should regularly monitor, assist and reassess each resident’s fall risk.
- Lack of fall prevention plan. Residents who have a high risk of falling should have a customized plan in place to reduce that risk. If there is not a plan in place or it is not carried out, falls are more likely to occur.
- Environmental hazards. Environmental hazards may include inadequate lighting, wet floors or spills, defective floors and cluttered hallways or common spaces.
What Are the Effects of Falls in the Elderly?
Many falls do not result in physical injuries. However, the CDC states that 20 percent of falls do cause serious injuries. Falls can cause:
- Broken bones, such as wrist, arm hip and leg breaks
- Head injuries and/or traumatic brain injuries
- Adverse effects on mobility
- Chronic pain
- Psychological effects like fear
What to Do After a Fall
If your loved one fell in a nursing home or assisted living facility, seek medical attention. Make sure that he or she does not have any dormant or unseen injuries from the fall. Then, speak to the facility about how it happened. Ask any questions you may have and document this discussion.
Report a Nursing Home Fall
Though nursing homes and assisted living facilities must report any incidents to the appropriate agencies, this does not always happen. You can report the fall incident, too. File a formal report with the facility and the appropriate authorities. You can also report elder neglect or abuse if you suspect it led to your loved one’s injuries.
Who Is Liable for Falls in Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities?
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a duty of care to their residents. If neglect exists, then the facility or its staff may be liable for damages. This depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your loved one’s fall.
If any of the following circumstances apply to your case, then you may have a viable claim to recover compensation for your loved one’s injuries:
- Facility failed to accurately assess the resident’s fall risk
- Failure to develop fall prevention plan for resident based on fall risk
- Failure to implement resident’s fall prevention plan
- Failure to uphold facility’s fall prevention protocols
- Understaffed facility based on facility’s staffing requirements
- Improperly trained staff
Know that these are just a few circumstances that may result in a viable claim. We recommend that you speak to our elder abuse lawyers to discuss your loved one’s unique situation. We will explain your legal options and determine whether we can help during a free consultation.
Contact Our Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Today
If you have a loved one at a nursing home or assisted living facility who repeatedly falls, it could be a sign of neglect at that facility. Do not wait until your loved one has a serious or fatal fall to contact a lawyer.
Our San Jose elder abuse attorneys can help you understand your legal options to hold the facility accountable for your loved one’s injuries. Call Needham Kepner & Fish LLP at (408) 956-6949 or fill out our online contact form and we will be in touch with you soon.