Nursing home accidents are alarmingly common. Accidents are also one of the signs of nursing home neglect, as nursing homes should take appropriate action to prevent accidents. If a nursing home resident dies or is injured in a fall, the nursing home may be held civilly and legally liable.
Nursing Home Accident Citations
Nursing homes may be cited by their state if they fail to prevent accidents. In 2023, after a dementia patient died following an “unwitnessed fall,” an investigation by the Department of Health found that the nursing home resident had been able to leave the grounds by pushing through a flimsy gate. Ohio ordered the nursing home to fix the gate.
Nursing Home Falls Lawsuit
Nursing home falls can be deadly. A Kansas City man filed a lawsuit following allegations that his wife died after falling out of bed, with no checks from the nursing home staff until the following morning. The suit argues that the woman should have received regular checks as a known fall risk.
Nursing Home Injuries
Nursing home injuries range from minor bruises and cuts to more serious injuries such as fractures and head trauma. Some of the most common nursing home injuries include:
- Falls: Falls are one of the most common causes of injury in nursing homes, and can result in fractures and head injuries.
- Pressure ulcers: Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin and can lead to serious infections if left untreated.
- Medication errors: Nursing home residents may be given the wrong medication, the wrong dose, or a medication that interacts negatively with other medications they are taking.
- Burns: Burns can be caused by hot liquids, radiators, or other sources of heat.
- Choking: Nursing home residents may be at risk of choking if they have difficulty swallowing or if they are given food that is not properly prepared.
Nursing homes need to take steps to prevent these types of injuries and accidents, such as implementing fall prevention programs, providing adequate staffing levels, and training staff members to prevent abuse and neglect.
Are Nursing Homes Required to Report Falls?
Yes, nursing homes are generally required to report falls. The reporting requirements can vary by state and country, but in the United States, nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid are required to report falls that result in serious injury to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Additionally, the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act requires nursing homes to assess each resident’s risk of falling, implement fall prevention strategies, and document any falls that occur. This documentation should include details such as the time and location of the fall, the cause of the fall, and any injuries sustained.
Reporting falls is important to ensure that appropriate medical care is provided to the resident and that steps are taken to prevent future falls.
Preventing Falls in Nursing Homes
Falls are a common and serious problem among older adults, particularly those living in nursing homes. However, there are several strategies that nursing homes can use to prevent falls and reduce the risk of injury.
Here are some examples of risk prevention protocols that every nursing home should follow:
- Conduct a fall risk assessment: Nursing homes should assess each resident’s risk of falling upon admission and regularly thereafter. This assessment should include factors such as age, medical history, medication use, mobility, and balance.
- Implement fall prevention interventions: Based on the results of the fall risk assessment, nursing homes can implement interventions to reduce the risk of falls. Examples of interventions include removing tripping hazards, providing mobility aids, adjusting bed and chair height, and installing grab bars in bathrooms.
- Encourage exercise: Exercise can improve strength, balance, and coordination, which can reduce the risk of falls. Nursing homes should encourage residents to participate in appropriate exercise programs, such as chair exercises, walking, or tai chi.
- Review medication use: Certain medications can increase the risk of falls, such as sedatives or medications that lower blood pressure. Nursing homes should review residents’ medications regularly and adjust them as necessary to minimize the risk of falls.
- Provide adequate staffing: Adequate staffing levels can ensure that residents receive the assistance they need with mobility and other activities, reducing the risk of falls.
- Educate residents and staff: Nursing homes should educate residents and staff about fall prevention strategies and the importance of reporting any falls or near-falls.
By implementing these strategies, nursing homes can create a safe and supportive environment for older adults and reduce the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.
Nursing Home Complaints
If you need to file a complaint against a nursing home, contact the nursing home’s long-term care ombudsman. You can find their contact information by visiting the Eldercare Locator website or by calling 1-800-677-1116.