The golden years, we dream and plan for our entire working life about what we will do when we get there. The relaxation offered by retirement and the time to actually enjoy the little things. Plus, there is will be plenty of time to do all those little things you never could before, like say travel. But as we continue to age, there may come a time when health issues slow us down and might even require medical care which can lead to hospitals visits or even admittance to a nursing home.
Are Falls in Hospitals and Nursing Homes an Issue?
Short answer, yes! Hospitals and nursing homes offer the medical services needed by many older adults. And they can do a fine job of providing the required care. But falls by the elderly population are a major problem. Between half to three-quarter of all nursing home residents fall each year. This means nursing home residents fall twice as often as other older adults. In an average size nursing home (e.g. one hundred beds), the CDC estimates between one and two hundred falls each year.
Hospitals are not immune to the falling problem, either. TheAgency for Healthcare Research and Quality(“AHRQ”) estimates three to five falls per one thousand hospital beds. Further, the AHRQ estimates annual falls by hospitalized patients tally around one million.
In general, the CDC estimates that one in four older adults experience a serious fall each year. For the elderly, falls are a major issue, even when in the care of a hospital or nursing home.
Aboutten to twenty percent of nursing home falls cause serious injury. Plus, approximately eighteen hundred nursing home patients die annually from falls.
Falls that involve older adults are a serious problem. The elderly are more prone to injury and falls often result in serious trauma. Even those who cannot walk are prone to falling. About one-third of nursing home falls occur with patients who are unable to walk. When an older adult falls in a hospital or nursing home, injuries can include things like:
- Broken bones,
- Head trauma,
- Sprains and contusions,
- Functional Decline, and
- Reduced Quality of Life.
This is far from a comprehensive list. Plus, every fall and the resulting injuries are unique in each case.
But in general, one in five patients that fall in nursing homes experience serious head injuries. Broken hips are another common injury with ninety percent of all broken hips resulting from falls. A broken hip often never heals properly and takes a long time for patients to recover just some of their mobility. Further, residents who break their hips have a higher mortality rate compared to other residents in the six months after the accident. In general, older adults are more likely to be seriously injured and less likely to heal fully from a fall.
This makes falls a very real danger for the elderly, and if you or a loved one was hurt from a fall in a hospital or nursing home, you may have a valid claim against the facility. Retaining the best fall lawyer available is advisable as these matters are complex and choosing the right course of action varies with every case. A veteran attorney will help the process and protect your rights that include getting the proper medical attention to heal your wounds.
Get the Best Fall Lawyer to Help
Healthcare facilities like nursing homes and hospitals have a responsibility to their patients to provide a safe environment. However, falls often occur due to the negligence of those providing healthcare. When this is the case, a patient has a right to file a claim for their incurred losses resulting from an injury. The claim process and litigation if necessary are complicated. It is usually advisable to retain the best fall lawyer to help with the process. They have the experience and resources to maximize the chance of fair compensation that covers all your losses.
Common Causes of Institutional Falls
Older adults fall at a higher rate than the rest of the population. As we get older, we are as not as fit and begin to lose muscle strength and coordination. Some elder people even have trouble with their stride and walking, which is a common cause of falls. It is part of aging.
Also, our eyesight begins to fail for many as we age. It is a medical fact that less light reaches the retina as we age. Impaired sight can make it easy to miss a trip hazard like a curb.
Another issue that comes with age, medicine is often prescribed to help with issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Drugs can impact the nervous system and increase the risk for a fall and the related injuries. The CDCnoted that falls are more likely during the three days following medication changes.
So, the risk of falling does naturally increase as we age. But there are other fall-related issues beyond the aging aspects. Environmental hazards account for sixteen to twenty-seven of all falls in nursing homes. Some examples of these risks include things like:
- Failing to analyze each patient’s fall risk
- Poor lighting
- Wet floors
- Poorly fitted or maintained wheelchairs
- High beds
- Poorly fitted shoes
- Improper use of walking aids (e.g. walker and canes)
- Missing handrails
- Lack of surveillance
- Change in medication
A hospital or nursing home should have a plan and policies to mitigate these well-known fall hazards. But when a patient falls because of the failure of an institution to mitigate recognized dangers, the victim can and should seek compensation. Victims can file a valid claim and have a right to compensation for their incurred losses when the fall happened because of negligence. These claims are complex and it is often a good idea to hire the best fall lawyer available to help.
Preventing Falls in Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Institutions like hospitals and nursing homes are cognizant of the fall problem.Falls cost the U.S. healthcaresystem fifty billion dollars a year. And recent studiesshow that many falls are preventable by making only a single change.
For this reason, many healthcare facilities have proactive programs to reduce falls. It is reasonable to expect facilities to implement a fall prevention program if they are aware of the problem. In addition, falls as outlined earlier are a known and serious issue for older adults. When falls occur, the related injuries are expensive and time consuming to address, with insurance rates often rising as a result. Healthcare providers not only have a responsibility to try and prevent falls, but they have also have a business and financial incentive.
A fall prevention program should address the known factors that can lead to a fall. These are numerous, but some examples include:
- Assessing each patient’s risk of falling. Some patients are more prone to fall than others.
- When a patient’s medication is changed, it can cause a fall and surveillance should be increased for the days following the change. So, signs should be used above a patient’s bed, at nursing stations, and on the medical chart to alert caregivers of an increased fall potential for a patient.
- The height of a bed may make getting in and out difficult, and therefore, may need to be lowered.
- Halls need to be kept clear of obstacles and it is important to have adequate lighting.
- Provide handrails and grabs.
- Use hip pads and/or floor mats to reduce injury if a fall occurs.
- Ensure clothing and footwear are properly fitted. No long robes or loose pants that cause a trip and fall.
This is not an exhaustive list and the nursing home or hospital fall prevention program should address all the known factors that lead to fallsand evaluate falls that do occur. There numerous studies compiling dataand offering suggestions based on what is learned.
Most healthcare facilities require workers to report all falls by filing an incident report. So, failure to report a fall not only violates internal policies in many cases, but it also prevents an elderly patient from receiving the medical attention they may need.
Another part of the fall prevention program includes making constant improvements over time based on what is learned from analyzing the falls that do occur. Failure to do so is negligence, and if this carelessness to make known improvements then causes a fall with injuries, the care provider may be liable to cover your damages.
Do Physical Restraints Prevent Falls?
In the past, hospitals used restraints believing they protected patients from falls. Some examples include vests, hand mitts, belts, and side rails to keep a patient from voluntarily getting out of bed. Although most physical restraints and restrictive side rails are used to prevent falls, several restraint-reduction projects have demonstrated that restraints can safely be removed without a significant increase in falls or injuries. One study revealedrestraints are not an effective fall prevention technique. For instance, it did not matter if the rails were up or down, and there were some indications falls increased when the rails were up.
The other fall prevention measures previously mentioned are more effective and should be employed in lieu of restraints. A facility relying on the use of restraints may be creating a dangerous situation for patients, and if restraints do cause a fall, the injured victim should seek compensation.
Patients Left Unattended
Surveillance has been shown to be an effective and necessary tool for fall prevention. So, leaving a patient, especially one who has fallen previously, is a careless act. If you or a loved one fell in a healthcare facility after being left unattended, you may want to contact a qualified personal injury lawyer to seek compensation.
In one article from a healthcare product supplier, they listed inadequate staffing as a top five cause of fallsin nursing homes. The found it was common in a wing that houses thirty patients, they may be watched over by just a single nurse. And that was during the day, at night the lace of surveillance often becomes worse.
Patients that are injured in a fall because they are not properly attended to have a right to seek compensation. The best fall lawyers can assist you in filing a claim and all those hard to understand and difficult tasks associated with the process. The course of action varies with every claim, and a qualified attorney will help in choosing the best course of action while protecting your rights. Also, the knowledge and experience that the best personal injury lawyers bring can maximize your chances of proving your claim is valid and that it deserves maximum compensation.
Are Healthcare Facilities Required to Report Falls by Law?
Part of a proper fall prevention program involves evaluating and learning from every fall the does occur. This means that each fall should be reported, properly studied, and recorded. But there is some confusion over whether it is required by law. While there are some federal regulations, in general, most healthcare facility regulations are mandated by the states. It varies enough that the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services compiled a list of regulations required by each state.
There are regulations in Pennsylvania covering nursing homesand hospitals. But, reporting a fall with injuries to the state is not required. If you discover bruises or cuts on a loved one while being cared for in a hospital or nursing home, you should inquire about what happened. If the answer is unsatisfactory, they may have been injured in a fall. Ensure that they received proper medical attention, then contact the best personal injury lawyer to evaluate if you have a valid claim and if you should seek compensation.
Some are hesitant to file a claim, but if you suspect your loved was injured in a fall, there a number of reasons to hold the healthcare institution responsible. A patient has rights and they should be protected. And most important, if they have been hurt, the injuries need to be properly cared for properly. But there is another aspect of holding those responsible accountable, it may prevent future falls to others. Falls are preventable in many cases and learning what caused each fall leads to solutions that could have prevented the accident.