Falls are all too common at nursing homes due among other things, limited physical capacity, medications with a sedative effect, and disorientation. The nursing home must be held to a higher standard because they know that their residents are at a higher risk of falling. Although the residents may not be improperly restrained, the facility must ensure that the nursing home remains as free of accident hazards as possible and that the residents receive adequate supervision, assistance along with using devices to prevent accidents.
Many of the cases that our nursing home attorneys handle involve unsupervised falls or falls while the resident is getting in and out of bed. This is very serious because statistics show that approximately 1,800 adults in nursing homes die each year from fall-related injuries. In addition, many of the fall victims sustain head injuries and hip fractures which leads to a more significant disability and reduced quality of life. We have made it a focus of our practice to pursue these claim throughout Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
The nursing home must undertake to properly maintain the facility and protect residents from foreseeable harm. In addition to eliminating tripping hazards and providing adequate lighting the facility most provide assistance many residents who are unable to get around independently. First, the nursing home must assess whether the resident is a fall risk. Then a plan should be implemented to prevent injury. If the patient has difficulty getting in and out of bed then the mattress should be kept close to the floor. Also mats or padding on the floor around the bed can reduce the severity of any fall.
Lack of staff or poor staff can also contribute to accidents. Often a resident will call for the nurse when they need assistance such as getting to the bathroom. If there is no response for 20 or 30 minutes then the patient will attempt to take himself or herself to the bathroom and may fall in the process. Some patients require a lifting device, called a hoyer lift, to get them into bed. If the resident is not properly strapped in or they try do use the lift with one staff member instead of two this could be considered negligence.
Many residents are hooked up various machines to monitor health condition or administer medication. It is important that the wires be kept out of the travel path as this can pose a trip hazard. Other patients are disoriented because heavy medication or mental impairment such as dementia. These residents may require bed monitors and wheelchair monitors to alert the staff if they attempt to get up. Sometimes simply overmedicating the resident can lead to a fall. This raises the related issue of improper chemical restraints. That is, when the nursing staff purposefully over medicate the patient to control their behavior, which can also be a basis for a negligence claim.
In addition to providing patient specific care to prevent falls the nursing home also has a duty to see that the condition of the property is safe for the activities for which it is regularly use. The question of whether the condition that caused the injury was a dangerous condition requires a case-by-case review of the specific facts. This can be a higher standard at a nursing facility because the premises is used to house elderly and potential unstable individuals who may have a propensity to fall.
Like any business the nursing home will be liable if they (1) know or by exercising reasonable care would discover the condition that led to the slip and fall, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to residents, and (2) should expect that they will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it, and (3) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect them against danger. You can read more about general slip and fall accidents on our website.
If you would like more information on nursing home falls please one of our nursing home lawyers at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or contact us online for a Free Case Evaluation.