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Preventing Falls in Nursing Homes and What to Do When One Occurs

Most nursing home residents will suffer a fall at some point during their stay at the facility - in fact, the CDC estimates that the average resident falls more than twice per year. Many of these falls will go unreported even though residents may suffer injuries that result in disability or reduced quality of life. Our nursing home neglect attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report on new programs to help prevent falls, and how family members can help a resident at risk of falls.

Although they are common, falls in nursing homes are largely preventable and should rarely or never occur in a well-run, fully-staffed facility. Recently, the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare worked alongside seven organizations to create solutions to prevent falls among adult patients.

These organizations gathered detailed data on all falls that occurred in their facilities, finding more than 30 contributing factors that resulted in falls. The solutions the organizations came up with targeted these 30-plus factors, and ultimately proved to reduce falls and resulting injuries. Participating hospitals included: Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, and four others.

Generally, the new targeted solutions involve five steps:

  1. Building a team
  2. Measuring the current fall rates
  3. Identifying specific causes for falls
  4. Linking those causes to proven solutions
  5. Improving fall plans by measuring and monitoring the process

It is important to get everybody that touches the patient involved in reducing falls; it is not just a nursing function, everyone on staff must be trained on how to prevent falls and how to treat a fallen resident. The most effective solutions address multiple factors and use a multidisciplinary team.

Common causes of falling include: muscle weakness or walking problems, environmental hazards (wet floors, poor lighting, incorrect bed height), over- or wrongful- medication, poor foot care, and improper use of walking aids.

Falls are often a sign of negligence in a nursing home. When a resident enters a nursing home they should be screened for any issues that could increase their risk of falls. If a resident is deemed a fall risk, staff must make a comprehensive, unique plan to prevent the resident from falling. Among interventions that can be included in a fall plan are:

  • Making changes in the facility environment, such as grab bars, raised toilet seats, lowering bed heights, and handrails.
  • Exercise programs to improve balance, strength, and mobility.
  • Reviewing prescribed medications to assess their risks and benefits.
  • Providing hip pads to prevent fractures.

No one wants to receive a phone call about an injury a loved one suffered in a nursing home. Family members can take preliminary steps to ensure their loved one is safe and well-cared for in their facility. Families should consider keeping notes on their loved one's medical history, such as medications and gait problems. Also consider getting contact information for your loved one's friends or roommates in the facility, and let them know you appreciate their keeping in touch.

If a fall does occur and the resident suffers a very serious injury, negligence or abuse may have some role in the incident. Our team of nursing home negligence lawyers has 30 years of experience working with injured residents and their families. We provide free, no-obligation consultations and we accept clients nationwide. If you have any concerns about an injury that occurred in a nursing home, we are here to help.