Many people believe that elderly people are more prone to falls, which is true up to a point. However, a surprising number of falls among the elderly population are entirely preventable and are the result of inadequate care and neglect, particularly in nursing homes.
Here’s what you should know about falls in nursing homes, how they can indicate your loved one is being neglected in a long-term care facility, and how an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can help you.
Nursing Home Fall Statistics
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that currently, approximately 1.4 million people age 65 and over are living in a nursing home or other type of assisted care facility. This accounts for approximately 5% of the elderly population nationwide.
However, the rate at which these individuals fall and become injured inside nursing homes is much higher than the rate at which they fall and become injured when they are not living in a nursing home, shedding concerning light on these organizations. The CDC suggests that as much as 20% of fall fatalities in the elderly population occur in long-term care facilities every year or 1,800 people.
Between 50% and 75% of nursing home patients fall annually, making assisted care homes one of the most dangerous places for elderly individuals who need additional support.
Causes of Falls In Nursing Homes
The are many potential causes of falls in nursing homes beyond patients simply being frail, ill, or elderly. Causes of nursing home falls that may be attributed to neglect include the following:
- Being given too much medication. Patients that are over-sedated are at a significantly higher risk of falling while moving around.
- Unsafe staffing. Nursing homes are notorious for not having enough staff to adequately monitor or care for patients within the facility. This leads to falls when staff can’t help patients up to eat or go to the bathroom, or when patients aren’t being watched.
- Poor safety equipment. Nursing homes should have a supply of working safety equipment to help patients move around in a nursing home, including wheelchairs, canes, safety belts, etc. When this equipment hasn’t been properly maintained or there isn’t enough of it, patients can easily fall when getting up out of bed or getting in and out of their wheelchair.
Signs Your Loved One Has Fallen At a Nursing Home
If a nursing home is at fault for your loved one’s injury due to a fall at their facility, they may try to hide this information or cover it up. It’s important to be aware of the potential signs that your loved one has fallen, especially if they have difficulty communicating or suffer from conditions like dementia. Your loved one may not be able to tell you if they fell or what caused it.
Here are some indicators that a patient has potentially suffered a fall:
- New or worsening headaches
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Excessive lethargy, fatigue, or marked drowsiness
- Loss of consciousness or blacking out
- New or worsening slurred speech or confusion
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Visible bruising, cuts, or other injuries to the surface of the head and face
Nursing Homes Have a Responsibility to Prevent Falls
Many people mistakenly believe that falls among the elderly population are accidental and therefore unpreventable, but this simply isn’t true. Nursing homes have a responsibility to their patients and the patients’ families to take appropriate precautions to prevent falls. Some actions nursing homes can take to make their facilities safer for patients include but are not limited to:
- Appropriately managing medication. Nursing homes may not order or administer too much medication to patients, even if they believe the patient can “tolerate it” or the patient has been combative.
- Ensuring adequate staff to patient ratio. Nursing homes are responsible for ensuring each shift has an adequate number of staff members caring for patients during that shift. Long-term care facilities cannot be understaffed in a way that leaves unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios.
- Checks and balances. Nursing homes should have policies in place that allow reports to be made for patient neglect.
How a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in Massachusetts and New Hampshire Can Help You
The attorneys at Mazow | McCullough, PC understand how difficult it is to know that a loved one was hurt or injured in a care home that should have been supporting them. Contact experienced New Hampshire and Massachusetts (978) 744-8000 or toll-free at (855) 693-9084 to learn more about how we can help you protect your loved one from nursing home abuse.