Preventing Falls In Nursing Homes

As discussed elsewhere on this site, including in the October 28, 2014 post titled “Nursing Home Falls And Lawsuits” as well as the November 4, 2014 post titled “Additional Commentary Regarding Nursing Home Falls,” falls are one of the common types of Illinois nursing home accidents.  These types of accidents can, of course, occur in various other types of long-term health care facilities, including assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), retirement homes, and hospices.

Given the prevalence of these falls – and the severity of the injuries that can be caused – a paramount topic is the prevention of such falls and other related accidents, such as nursing home residents who trip.  While, of course, not all falls are preventable, any actions that can be taken to reduce such falls seem advisable.

Nursing home residents fall and trip due to any number of reasons.  Among these reasons include:

  • Objects or obstacles on the floor that cause residents to trip
  • Lack of a walking aid, such as a cane or walker
  • Other improper equipment
  • Inadequate nursing home staff monitoring
  • Faulty or inappropriate bed rails

Additionally, the CDC, in its “Falls in Nursing Homes” document, lists other reasons for falls, including:

  • Muscle weakness and walking and/or gait problems, which the CDC says “are the most common causes of falls among nursing home residents. These problems account for about 24% of the falls in nursing homes.
  • “Environmental hazards in nursing homes” which “cause 16% to 27% of falls among residents.
  • Hazards including “wet floors, poor lighting, incorrect bed height, and improperly fitted or maintained wheelchairs.
  • Medications that “can increase the risk of falls and fall-related injuries. Drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs, are of particular concern.  Fall risk is significantly elevated during the three days following any change in these types of medications.
  • Other causes of falls, which the CDC states “include difficulty in moving from one place to another (for example, from the bed to a chair), poor foot care, poorly fitting shoes, and improper or incorrect use of walking aids.

There are numerous actions that can be taken to prevent falls by the elderly.  The aforementioned CDC document lists eight actions, ranging from assessing patients for their propensity to fall, based upon various factors, to making changes in the nursing home environment.  An excerpt regarding these changes:

Making changes in the nursing home environment to make it easier for residents to move around safely. Such changes include putting in grab bars, adding raised toilet seats, lowering bed heights, and installing handrails in the hallways.

Of course, there are many other nursing home fall prevention strategies that can pursued and incorporated.  In the November 2, 2014 New York Times article titled “Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation,”  in addition to discussing the general topic of nursing home falls the article also discussed how various preventative measures are being implemented in nursing homes to prevent residents from falling.  As seen in the article, a range of measures are being pursued, including lighting that works off of motion detection, installing energy-absorbing flooring in bathrooms in order to reduce the impacts of a fall, and other measures that have to do with how residents walk and perceive depth and spatial qualities.

Additional commentary regarding nursing home falls and preventative measures can be seen in the October 31, 2014 McKnight’s article titled “Falls can cost more than an arm and a leg.”

Should someone you care for in a Chicago nursing home, or any other Illinois nursing home or care facility, suffer a fall that leads to injury, they may be entitled to compensation.  While, of course, not all falls are caused by carelessness or negligence on the part of the nursing home (or other long-term health care provider), in instances where a resident falls due to negligence a lawsuit may be warranted.  Each nursing home fall that leads to injury should be assessed, from a legal perspective, on a case-specific basis.  Please call the Chicago personal injury trial lawyers at the Elman Law Group at (773) 392-8182 to discuss the fall accident and to get a free legal overview concerning the accident injury.