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Falls a Serious Threat as Population Ages

The nursing home negligence attorneys at Pintas & Mullins law firm have decades of experience working with residents who suffer from serious or repeated falls in nursing homes. As the baby boomers age – about 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day – more and more people are entering nursing homes. A large percentage of these residents will fall during their time in these facilities, suffering serious and sometimes fatal injuries.

The New York Times recently published a series of two articles exclusively on this topic. The first, published on November 2, 2014, begins by profiling a retirement in San Francisco that had strict requirements for residents during meal times to help reduce falls. The residents were required to park their walkers once they reached their table to eat, and remain seated while staff brought them their meal – no additional trips to the buffet were warranted and they could not pick out their own meals.

This was a requirement until a resident sued the retirement community, claiming it took away her freedom to move as she pleased. Now, residents at The Sequoias are allowed to talk their walkers to and from the buffet, but not during peak hours.

Similar battles are being waged in nursing homes and assisted living centers throughout the country, where more and more residents are being admitted with serious disabilities and fall risks. Recently, there has been much attention on how to prevent falls among residents, as more often than not, falls result in disability, decreased quality of life, functional decline, and feelings of helplessness.

Some facilities hire interior designers and architects to mediate the environmental hazards in nursing homes. Some of their recommendations involve floor lighting in bedrooms and energy-absorbing flooring in bathrooms to make falls less severe if they do occur. In research, the National Institute on Aging and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute recently began a $30 million dollar study on elder fall prevention.

Life-Changing Consequences

In 2012 alone, more than 24,000 Americans aged 65 and older died after a fall, and millions more were treated in the ER for injuries from falls. Unfortunately, many aging residents do not acknowledge their risk of falling or the necessity of taking precautions to prevent it from happening. My 95-year-old grandfather lives alone and does his own laundry, in the basement, down stairs with no railing. “I can do my own laundry,” he insists whenever my family inquires.

This is a familiar story for so many families whose loved one refuses to recognize their own vulnerability. Stairs and getting in and out of bed can be particularly hazardous. Nursing homes should regularly inspect rooms to measure bed height, toilet height, grab bars, furniture that could fall if grabbed for support, and other safety measures.

Any failure to take precautions to prevent falls in a nursing home could be considered negligence if those failures lead to a serious injury. Everyone who enters a nursing home is required to be evaluated for fall risk and other conditions so the nursing home can create a unique, comprehensive care plan for each resident. These care plans then need to be routinely updated to account for new, worsened, or improved health conditions.

If a fall does occur, it must be reported to the staff, who then must report it to their higher-ups. This is the only way staff can know the true extent of someone’s fall risk and help protect them. When nursing homes are extremely understaffed, which is common among for-profit nursing home chains, residents can lie alone on the floor for hours, even days at time, with a serious injury.

The only way to prevent the large majority of falls is to have consistent monitoring by nurses – but they cannot do that if they are overworked and understaffed. Unfortunately, most of the nursing homes in the U.S. are run by chain corporations that prioritize profits over patients. These companies routinely understaff facilities and cut resources in order to save money.

Our team of nursing home lawyers is currently investigating cases of serious injuries from falls in nursing homes. If you or someone you love recently suffered a fall that you believe was caused by negligence by nursing home staff, contact our firm immediately. We provide free, confidential legal consultations to nursing home residents and their families nationwide.

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