How to Prevent Falls in a Nursing Home

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When an elderly loved one requires daily care for their health and safety, family members commonly place them into the best nursing home facilities available to them with the assumption that they are safer with full-time care than they would be at home. Sadly, falls are more common in nursing homes than in private residences. Nearly twice as many falls occur in nursing homes than in typical community settings. As many as 75 percent of nursing home residents experience at least one fall per year of nursing home residency and one out of three experience two or more falls per year. Tragically, around 1,800 elderly nursing home residents die from falls each year. Falls are the second most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) after motor vehicle accidents.

Common Causes of Falls in Nursing Homes

The elderly population faces a higher-than-average risk of falls due to reduced muscle strength as well as common problems with balance, gait, and vertigo. Common causes of falls in nursing homes include the following:

  • Environmental hazards and clutter (16-27% of nursing home falls are due to equipment left in hallways)
  • Lack of assistance in bathrooms
  • Inadequate handrails
  • Inadequate or broken assistive walking equipment
  • Drops due to improper transfer from bed to chair or chair to bed, such as when one caregiver attempts to transfer a resident rather than the standard “two-person assist”
  • Impaired vision
  • Sedatives and over-medication
  • Wet floors
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Shoves or attacks from other residents
  • High beds/faulty or inadequate bedrails
  • Improper footwear
  • Unstable furniture
  • Unprotected access to stairs

When negligent nursing home actions cause or allow a resident to fall, the nursing home may be liable for damages like medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, or wrongful death damages.

Preventing Falls in Nursing Homes

Healthcare professionals in nursing homes must perform mobility and fall risk assessments on new residents and then put appropriate protocols in place. They should also periodically reassess each resident’s status and reassess and update after any change in medical condition. Besides keeping staff proactively aware of a resident’s fall risk, nursing homes should also take all reasonable measures to prevent falls, including the following:

  • Properly monitor residents and provide prompt assistance with toileting and transfers
  • Provide adequate safety rails and assistive equipment for walking
  • Install adequate lighting
  • Remove clutter and fall hazards from hallways, bedrooms, garden paths, and living areas
  • Install adequate grab bars in restrooms
  • Ensure residents have proper footwear with non-slip soles
  • Encourage physical therapy and balance exercises to support better balance and coordination
  • Keep floors clean and dry
  • Provide adequate bed rails
  • Ensure all furniture is stable and in good repair
  • Lock doors that access stairwells
  • Adjust bed and wheelchair heights appropriately
  • Install bed alarms to alert caregivers when a resident rises

Nursing homes sometimes fail to adequately train caregivers to prevent falls or fail to put proper measures in place to mitigate fall hazards. Inadequate training can be a sign of negligence in a nursing home abuse case. To learn more about your legal options and to find out if you have a case, contact the Lousiville nursing home abuse lawyers at Gray & White Law. We offer a free case evaluation. Call (502) 210-8942 or contact us online.

One of the most critical measures to prevent falls in nursing homes is to ensure clear communication between staff members such as placing highly visible symbols on residents’ charts to alert caregivers to a patient’s fall risk status.