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Nursing Home Falls & Fractures

You’re putting a lot of faith and trust in the staff at your loved one’s care facility. That’s why it can be so disheartening to receive a phone call that your loved one has suffered any sort of accident or mistreatment. Unfortunately, nursing home facilities are notorious for the abuse and neglect of their residents.

Falls are one of the major red flags that your loved one might not be taken care of properly by nursing home staff. In fact, elderly individuals are twice as likely to fall in a nursing home than if they live independently.

With this in mind, it’s essential to examine the circumstances of falls of elderly loved ones at nursing homes to determine whether it’s simply an accident or the result of abuse or neglect. Our attorneys have extensive experience in addressing injuries from falls through legal action.

If you suspect abuse or neglect from your loved one’s nursing facility, contact Arizona’s leading nursing home falls lawyers at Nursing Home Advocates for a free consultation.

How Common Are Falls In Nursing Homes?

According to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), approximately half of the 1.6 million residents in nursing homes fall each year—and a third of those patients will fall more than once. Additionally, a study published by the National Library of Medicine found that between 10% to 25% of falls in nursing homes lead to hospitalization for fractures and other injuries.

Reasons Falls Occur in Nursing Homes

There are many reasons a nursing home resident may fall, many of which are under the facility’s ability to mitigate. Falls are caused by either intrinsic or extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic Factors

  • Muscle Weakness—About 24% of nursing home falls happen because of general muscle weakness.Many nursing home residents lose muscle strength more quickly than others in their same age demographic who live independently.
  • Cognitive Impairment—Nursing home residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairments can be easily confused by unfamiliar surroundings. They may not be able to avoid hazards or properly control motor function.
  • Acute Medical Conditions—Any sudden changes in health that may cause dizziness (or vertigo), confusion, or are the result of a previous fall (sprains, strains, fractures, etc.) increase the chance of falls.
  • Chronic Diseases—Hearing loss, heart conditions, diabetes or other autoimmune disorders, arthritis, foot conditions, and more may impair an individual’s ability to move properly, which could result in a fall.
  • Deconditioning from Inactivity—Nursing home residents may have a diminished ability to walk if long-term nursing home care did not provide adequate opportunities for physical activity.
  • Certain Medications or Changes in Medicine—Medications that affect the central nervous system, like sedatives or anti-anxiety medications, increase a patient’s risk of falls. This risk is highest in the days just after a change in medication or dosage occurs.

Extrinsic Factors

  • Transfer Issues—It’s common for elderly patients to have injuries from falling out of bed when they try to move unassisted or when nursing home staff is not strong enough to lift the patient or doesn’t follow proper lifting techniques.
  • Environmental Hazards—Anywhere from 16-27% of falls occurdue to environmental hazards like wet floors, poor lighting, objects in walkways, and small rooms or hallways.
  • Unsafe Equipment—Falls can happen with incorrect bed height, broken or damaged walkers or canes, and improperly fitted wheelchairs.
  • History of Falls—Even just one fall increases the chance of falling again, especially if the fall resulted in a serious injury.

Health Outcomes of Falls

Dangerous complications can arise when elderly individuals fall, especially if it goes unreported or is downplayed by the nursing home staff. According to the CDC, about 1 in 5 falls lead to serious injuries. In 2019 alone, falls resulted in 34,000 deaths in adults over 65, making falls the leading cause of injury death in this age group.

Here are some of the health outcomes of a fall in a nursing home facility.

  • Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries
  • Leg, hip, arm, or other bone fractures
  • Stroke as the result of a brain injury
  • Loss of mobility and independence
  • Surgery and surgical complications such as infections or blood clots
  • Extensive, painful recuperation and physical therapy
  • Chronic pain
  • Overall increased deterioration of health

Fall Prevention In Nursing Homes & Protocols

Most falls in nursing homes can be prevented through proper programs and procedures implemented by nursing home staff. Remember that it’s within your loved one’s rights to report falls as a form of abuse or neglect if they (or you) believe that a long-term care facility is not doing its best to prevent falls.

Facility Responsibilities

Here are a few guidelines recommended by the Agency of Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) that you can look for in the management of your loved one’s fall risk in their nursing home. There are two primary approaches to fall management.

First, immediate intervention:

  • Medical care for the resident who fell
  • Careful investigation and evaluation in the first 24 hours of a fall to identify risks of future accidents

Second, long-term management:

  • Screening at admission for fall risk
  • Quarterly and annual change of condition evaluations to determine new or continuing risks of falls
  • Clearly defined safety policies
  • All staff to identify and report safety concerns
  • Enforcement of safety policies by supervisors and managers
  • Regular measurement of staff safety performance
  • Analysis and review of procedures

Requests You Can Make

Nursing staff should be doing all they can to prevent your loved one from falling. However, if you observe areas that need improvement, it’s well within your rights to request additional accommodations for your loved one.

Here are a few things you can ask for that help prevent falls.

  • Bedside commodes or adult diapers
  • Elevated toilet seats
  • Floor cushions to absorb shock
  • Grab bars
  • Low-profile beds
  • Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, canes, or walkers
  • Monitors, bed alarms, or personal alarms
  • Nightlights

Falls in Nursing Homes: Warning Signs of Potential Abuse and Neglect

Most falls in nursing homes are preventable when proper precautions and safety measures are met. If you notice any of these mistakes in fall intervention, it could be a sign that your loved one’s fall was not an accident but rather the result of abuse or neglect.

  • The facility does not have a completed risk assessment on file. This includes a history of past accidents and falls, medications, and general physical health.
  • The staff is not attentive to patients who need assistance with walking.
  • Residents who need assistance don’t have appropriate walking aids, shoes, or foot care.
  • Environmental hazards are repeatedly present when you visit your loved one, including poor lighting, slippery floors, debris in walkways, broken equipment, and more.
  • Your loved one has faulty bed rails or a bed that is too tall for them.

Signs a Facility May Be Covering Up a Fall

If your loved one has difficulty speaking or communicating, they may not be able to advocate for proper care and reporting if they fall. Watch for these signs that a fall has gone undetected or been mishandled due to neglect or abuse that your loved one can’t communicate to you on their own:

  • Your loved one seems to be in pain or has a new injury and nursing home staff denies knowing when or how it happened.
  • Behavioral changes in your loved one, including agitation, withdrawal, or fear.
  • Injuries from falls are cleaned up before being reported and examined by a medical professional, removing critical evidence.
  • Facility management fails to follow up with you on internal reports. Nursing homes should undergo a rigorous evaluation of their practicesafter a fall occurs.

How to Help a Loved One Who Has Experienced a Fall

Your top priority should be to ensure your loved one receives immediate medical attention if they experience a fall at a nursing home. Once you have a better idea of the seriousness of their injuries and the care they will receive, you can take a few more steps to address your concerns about abuse or neglect.

  • Bring your concerns to the family council. If your loved one is experiencing falls, there is a chance it may be happening to others.
  • Document what you observed in writing for future recall of events or by taking photos of injuries and conditions if possible.
  • Speak with the nursing home staff about the incident and file a report.
  • Become familiar with the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights.
  • Seek further action by filing a nursing home fall lawsuit with an experienced law firm.

Falls in care facilities are a common and serious sign of nursing home abuse or neglect, and your loved one’s facility should be held responsible.

Based in Arizona, Solomon & Relihan are experts in representing cases of nursing home abuse and neglect, including falls. Solomon & Relihan has represented personal injury victims since 1974 and can advise families on what the federal and state laws in this practice area cover, and how they can respond to their loved one’s case of abuse or neglect in a nursing home.

Contact Solomon & Relihan now for a free consultation to find out more and discuss the quality of care of a loved one in a nursing home.

Solomon & Relihan offers decades of experience and in-depth knowledge surrounding elderly abuse and neglect if you’re looking for a nursing home bedsore lawyer in Arizona. Contact us for a FREE case review and analysis today!

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