Nursing Homes Have a Legal Duty to Prevent Accidents and Falls
Nursing homes must prevent accidents and falls, but after a fall the individual needs to be closely monitored and assessed by qualified nursing or home staff. Often the nursing home does not insure that the resident is assessed by a RN or medical doctor, rather they rely on the LPN and nursing assistant staff to look for changes in the condition of the resident that could signal a problem related to the fall, the most common of which is a subdural hematoma, leading to brain swelling, and often death.
Frequently falls result in the breaking of a bone, many times at the level of a joint such as in the hip or knee. The injury may result in the resident becoming bedridden or confined to a wheelchair for rehabilitative care. The loss in ambulation can then lead to many other risk factors such as bed sores from the pressure of laying on the same area for extended periods of time, and loss of muscle strength, leading to additional falls. Fall injuries can also lead to death months after the incident from complications such as pneumonia.
More Information About Preventable Nursing Home Accidents and Falls
Avoiding falls is very important and should be one of the primary focuses in the nursing home. To protect the residents the nursing home should be frequently monitoring the resident to determine the risks for falling and taking interventions to reduce the change of a fall incident. The effectiveness of the interventions should be evaluated to ensure the effectiveness of safety interventions and if they need to be modified. This is especially important if there is any sudden change in a resident’s ability to function physically and changes with the cognitive or behavior status of the resident. These changes could be due to an underlying medical condition which needs to be addressed, or problems with medication or numerous other issues. Assessments needed to be performed by a qualified RN nurse, not lower level nursing staff, who should instead be making observations, and reporting their finding to those qualified to enact appropriate safety measures.
To participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, nursing homes must be in compliance with the federal requirements for long term care facilities as prescribed in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (42 CFR Part 483), the facility must take measure to prevent accidents and falls.
Accidents. The facility must ensure that—
(1) The resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible; and
(2) Each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents. (42 CFR § 483.25 (h))
Questions regarding Accidents and Falls:
- Request the Nursing Home Fall Prevention Policy
- Has a fall risk assessment been performed?
- Was the resident considered at risk for falling?
- Had the resident fallen in the past? How many times? When was the last fall?
- Was there one-to one monitoring after the fall(s)?
- What was the delay between time of fall and when the resident received medical attention?
- When were the family and resident’s doctor notified of the fall?
- Were vitals and post incident assessments performed?
- What fall precautions were in place before the fall?
- Bedrails, bed alarm, floor mats, lowered bed?
- Were there any post fall assessments made to protect resident’s safety?
- Were there other risks for fall such as dementia or reactions from medications, or blood glucose levels, as well as anticoagulants?
This website is not intended to provide legal advice as each situation is different and specific factual information must be obtained before an attorney is able to assess the legal questions relevant to your situation.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or abuse in a nursing home or other care facility that serves the elderly in Minnesota please contact our firm for a free consultation and information regarding the obligations of the facility and your rights as a resident or concerned family member.