The elderly are especially prone to injuries from falling. In nursing homes and other elder care facilities, however, nursing home staff members take on the responsibility of protecting residents from the potential for falls. Usually when a resident is admitted to the home, the staff assesses his or her risk for falls and implements a plan to handle the risk. If a fall does occur, the nursing home staff is required to assess whether any changes are necessary to make sure another fall doesn’t happen and to take into account any additional needs that the nursing home resident may have due to injuries from the first fall.
In addition to care taken by staff, adequate equipment in a nursing home can prevent falls. Prevention equipment includes bed rails, chairs with wheels that lock, walkers and canes, and non-skid footwear.
When a nursing home fails to implement proper precautions against falls, the elderly person’s family should intervene. Some falls cannot be avoided, but many are preventable in the exercise of reasonable care by adequately trained staff. Under federal, state, and local regulations, nursing homes are required to keep their premises reasonably free of hazards, hire appropriate employees and adequately supervise them, maintain adequate health and safety policies, and provide adequate medical treatment for their residents.
When a nursing home accepts Medicare it must follow federal regulations that provide the standard of care. Among these standards are the requirements that the facility remain free of accident hazards and have adequate supervision of and provision of equipment for residents.
Nursing Home Negligence
If an elderly loved one has fallen without explanation in his or her nursing home, you may be wondering whether he or she is receiving adequate care. Since nursing home neglect is fairly common, it is appropriate to investigate the circumstances of the fall and to ask the staff what additional interventions will be put into place to make sure the fall doesn’t happen again.
When an elderly person is seriously hurt as a result of a fall that arises from neglect, he or she can bring a personal injury lawsuit either individually or through a guardian to recover economic or noneconomic damages, such as past or future medical costs, any out-of-pocket costs, mental or emotional anguish, and pain and suffering. In cases of egregious misconduct by a nursing home, it may be appropriate to seek punitive damages.
In order to recover, the plaintiff will have to prove the nursing home’s duty of care, the nursing home’s breach of duty, a causal link from the breach to the fall, and damages. The first element of duty and the fourth element of damages are usually relatively straightforward to prove. Breach of duty and causation can be more challenging, however. In some cases, there are no witnesses to an elderly person’s fall, and only the elderly person knows what happened. When an elderly person suffers from cognitive deficits, it may be difficult for the person to give testimony as to what happened. In those cases, an attorney may attempt to show that the nursing home deviated from its own plan of care for the resident.
In other cases, an elderly person acts unexpectedly. For example, an elderly resident who is supposed to press a call button for an attendant and wait for the attendant’s help getting to the bathroom may fail to press the call button and fall on the way to the bathroom. In such cases, the elderly person’s inability to abide by an appropriate plan put in place by the nursing home staff may reduce or eliminate a cause of action for nursing home negligence.