Holding Nursing Homes Accountable for Fall-Related Injuries

Holding Nursing Homes Accountable for Fall-Related InjuriesFalls are a common problem in nursing homes, sometimes leading to serious injury or even death. If a nursing home is somehow responsible for an injury a resident sustained in a fall, the facility could be held liable for damages.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 14 million older adults report falling each year. Falls are especially common in nursing facilities, where about half of the 1.6 million residents fall annually. Unfortunately, many falls occurring in nursing homes are not reported, even though federal law requires that facilities promptly report falls to regulatory agencies and notify the resident’s family or a designated representative.

Why do nursing home residents fall so frequently?

Nursing home residents fall for a variety of reasons, often related to their age, health conditions, environment, and the quality of care they receive. Some common factors contributing to falls among nursing home residents include:

  • Mobility challenges: Many nursing home residents have limited mobility due to conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or musculoskeletal issues. Decreased strength, balance, and coordination increase the risk of falls.
  • Cognitive impairments: Residents with dementia or other cognitive impairments may have difficulty understanding their surroundings, following instructions, or recognizing hazards, making them more susceptible to falls.
  • Medication side effects: Some medications prescribed to nursing home residents can cause dizziness, drowsiness, or changes in blood pressure, which may increase the risk of falls. Antidepressants, sedatives, antipsychotics, and certain blood pressure medications are examples of drugs that can contribute to falls.
  • Poor footwear: Ill-fitting or inappropriate footwear can increase the risk of falls. Residents who wear slippers or socks with inadequate grip have an increased likelihood of slipping or tripping.
  • Muscle weakness and balance problems: Age-related muscle weakness and balance issues can contribute to nursing home residents’ propensity for falls, particularly when combined with other risk factors.
  • Deconditioning: Prolonged bed rest or inactivity can lead to muscle weakness, decreased bone density, and reduced cardiovascular fitness, all of which increase the risk of falls when residents attempt to move or walk.

Addressing these risk factors through comprehensive assessment, individualized care plans, environmental modifications, staff training, and ongoing monitoring can help prevent falls among nursing home residents.

What are some common fall-related injuries among nursing home residents?

Nursing home residents can sustain a wide range of injuries from falls, varying in severity depending on factors like the resident’s health, the circumstances of the fall, and the quality of care provided. Some common injuries nursing home residents can suffer as a result of falls include:

  • Fractures: Falls often result in fractures, especially of the hip, wrist, arm, or leg. Hip fractures are particularly concerning as they can significantly impact mobility and independence and may require surgery and prolonged rehabilitation.
  • Head injuries: Falls can cause head injuries ranging from minor cuts and bruises to more severe traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including concussions and intracranial bleeding. Head injuries can lead to cognitive impairment, memory problems, and other long-term complications.
  • Soft tissue injuries: Residents may sustain soft tissue injuries such as bruises, sprains, strains, or contusions as a result of falling on hard surfaces or colliding with objects.
  • Dislocations: Falls can cause joints to become dislocated, particularly in older adults with pre-existing joint conditions or osteoarthritis. Dislocations most commonly occur in the shoulder, hip, or knee joints.
  • Internal injuries: In some cases, falls can result in internal bleeding, organ damage, or abdominal trauma. These injuries may not be immediately apparent and can have serious consequences if left untreated.
  • Psychological effects: Beyond physical injuries, falls can also have psychological effects on nursing home residents, including fear of falling, anxiety, depression, and loss of confidence in their ability to perform daily activities independently.
  • Complications: Residents may experience fall-related complications such as infection, pressure ulcers (bedsores), or exacerbation of pre-existing health conditions due to immobility or prolonged hospitalization.
  • Death: In severe cases, falls can result in fatal injuries, particularly among frail or medically compromised residents. Falls are the leading cause of death among adults aged 65 and older.

Preventing falls and promptly addressing any injuries sustained is essential for the well-being and safety of nursing home residents.

When could a nursing home be liable for a fall-related injury?

A nursing home could be held responsible for a fall-related injury if it fails to provide a safe environment for its residents or neglects its duty to properly care for them. Here are some situations where a nursing home could be held accountable:

  • Failure to evaluate risks: Nursing homes are responsible for assessing each resident’s risk of falling and implementing appropriate measures to prevent falls. If they fail to conduct proper assessments or ignore known risks, they could be liable.
  • Inadequate supervision: Nursing home staff should provide proper supervision to residents who are at risk of falling, especially those with mobility issues or cognitive impairments. If a resident falls due to a lack of supervision, the nursing home may be held responsible.
  • Negligent care: Neglecting to help residents with mobility, failing to provide necessary mobility aids, or not responding promptly to calls or requests for assistance can lead to falls. If a fall occurs because of negligent care, the nursing home could be liable.
  • Unsafe environment: Nursing homes must maintain a safe environment, free from hazards that could cause residents to fall, such as slippery floors, cluttered living spaces, or inadequate lighting. If a fall is caused by environmental hazards that the nursing home failed to address, they may be held accountable.
  • Inadequate training: Nursing home staff members should be properly trained in fall prevention techniques and protocols. If a fall occurs because staff members aren’t adequately trained or educated on how to prevent falls, the nursing home may be responsible.

In any of these situations, if a nursing home breached its duty of care to its residents and caused a fall-related injury, it can be held legally responsible for the resident’s damages.

Did you or a loved one sustain serious fall-related injuries in a nursing home? Falls among the elderly in nursing homes can be related to neglect on the part of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The attorneys at Garcia & Artigliere are committed to fighting nursing home abuse and neglect across the United States. We are a national law firm with offices in PhoenixLong BeachLos AngelesLouisville, and New Orleans. Call us or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case review today.