What to Do If Your Parent Falls at a Nursing Home?
Unfortunately, if your parent is in a nursing home in the United States for an extended period of time, there is a high likelihood that he or she will suffer a fall at some point.
Falls in nursing homes are alarmingly common – and they can be serious, even life-threatening.
In fact, according to the Nursing Home Abuse Center:
- Deaths due to falls in nursing homes constitute 20% of deaths in U.S. adults aged 65 and over – though only about 5% of this age group lives in nursing homes.
- About 10%-20% of nursing home falls result in serious injuries.
- The average rate of falls is 2.6 falls per person in any given year.
- Between 50% and 75% of nursing-facility residents fall each year
So, what should you do if your parent falls at a nursing home?
What steps should you take and are there legal avenues open to you?
Determine what happened and who was at fault
After ensuring that your parent has received the necessary medical attention after a fall, the first thing you should do is to check what happened.
Were there witnesses? What is the staff version of events? What happened according to your parent?
Try to get a precise picture of what happened and, if necessary, take photographs or video to support the story.
Overworked, under-prepared or under-trained staff working excessively long hours is no excuse for your parent falling.
The nursing home undertook a duty of care responsibility when your parent became a resident and the home should not raise the risk for residents by attempting to cut costs.
Nor is it acceptable, for instance, for electrical leads or wet floors to cause a fall for an elderly resident who should have been supervised while walking.
Some cases are obvious and others less so. Conduct a thorough investigation into what happened so that you have a complete picture.
If you start to get a picture of possible negligence from members of staff at the nursing home, the next step is to understand what should have happened to prevent the fall.
Review the nursing home protocols
Once you know the facts about the incident, refer to the nursing home protocols.
One of the main duties of a nursing home is to keep its residents safe and free of risks to their health and wellbeing.
Every nursing home should have a set of rules, systems or guidelines for staff to follow to prevent falls from happening and to take appropriate action in the event of a fall.
The best nursing homes have almost every base covered and train their staff well in following the protocols correctly.
However, that is not always the case, unfortunately.
Usually, the guidelines cover protocols such as:
- Understanding the needs of each individual patient with regards to mobility
- Watching vulnerable residents as closely as possible at all times
- Accompanying high-risk residents when they walk
- Providing residents with walkers or wheelchairs as required
- Reviewing the medications administered for increased risk of dizziness/imbalance/falls
- Providing adaptive equipment like handrails, lowered beds, raised toilet seats, etc.
- Providing hip pads to prevent hip fractures in the event of falls
- Supervising strengthening exercises for residents
Such attentiveness prevents falls from happening – which is the ideal situation. For instance, careful observation of residents may lead to staff noticing changes in walking gait that increase the risk of falls.
If a resident’s dementia worsens, it should be noted that extra care should be taken with that resident.
Preventative measures can and should be taken, according to the most comprehensive nursing home protocols.
However, even in facilities that are well prepared, accidents still happen. So, protocols should include what to do in the event of a fall:
- Assessment procedures
- Identifying the cause of the fall
- Treatment required
- When to call an ambulance, etc., etc.
Any nursing home in the United States has a set of minimum standards to follow to ensure the physical, mental and general well-being of every person residing there. The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act lays out these guidelines.
However, the nursing home should also have other protocols in place that go above and beyond the minimum requirements.
Understand these protocols first and, if they are not followed and cause your parent to fall or suffer unnecessarily after a fall, consult with a personal injury lawyer experienced in such cases.
Take legal action?
Your consultation with a personal injury lawyer should help you determine whether legal action is the right course to take.
After a fall, your parent may have to pay extra medical expenses and suffer emotional as well as physical pain and suffering.
You may be able to claim compensation for these.
If you have strong evidence that your parent’s fall was due to negligence of nursing home staff and the failure to follow correct protocols, you may have a strong case for damages.
Taking legal action often convinces the nursing home to settle out of court as trials can be expensive, time-consuming, and can easily damage reputations.