Seniors are more likely to slip and fall and more likely to suffer severe injuries after a fall than younger people. Their advanced age often means they have balance and stability issues. When older people have injuries, it takes much more time to fully heal than for young people. Sadly, most seniors don’t have the time they need to heal.
At Philbrook Law Office, our nursing home neglect lawyers in Vancouver and Battle Ground, WA have been fighting for personal injury victims since 2005. We understand why slip and fall accidents at nursing homes happen, what steps nursing homes should take to avoid these accidents, and why the nursing homes should be held accountable for the injuries and deaths they cause.
What precautions should nursing homes take to avoid slip and fall accidents?
Nursing homes know that most of their residents are in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. They know many already use canes and walkers – or will quite soon. There are numerous steps nursing homes should take to prevent or reduce the risk of falls. Nursing homes should have a fall prevention plan that begins with reviewing the layout and use of the nursing home. Level ground is generally better than inclines and stairs.
- Reviewing the medications a senior takes. Some drugs can make patients tired or confused. Some drugs and drug interactions with other drugs can increase the risk of falling. Medications can affect an older person’s balance and their ability to respond to any dangerous conditions. The medical staff at the nursing home should review the risks of the resident’s current medications. It may be possible to switch to safer medications.
- The use assistive devices. Nursing homes and occupational therapists can help seniors understand what devices such as wheelchairs, canes, and walkers can help them keep their balance. The residents should be trained on how to properly use these devices. Some adjustments such as rubber tips on walkers, seatbelts for wheelchairs, and cushions to prevent a senior from sliding out of a wheelchair can be beneficial
- Clearing away any obstacles. Seniors can easily trip and fall over any debris or objects on the floor. Floors that are wet should be cleaned immediately. Broken tiles and torn carpets should be fixed.
- Keeping a hazard checklist. The nursing home should have a system in place to report objects that need to be cleared and arrange for the cleanup. There should be routine inspections throughout the day.
- Staff education. The workers at the nursing home who help the residents move, enjoy nursing home activities, get to the dining room, and move to the various other parts of the nursing home need to understand what hazardous conditions may cause a senior to fall. They should know where the warning signs are and use those warning signs until the hazards can be removed.
- Using chair and bed alarms. These alarms help alert the nursing home staff that someone has fallen. The devices use “pressure sensors that sound an alert when weight is taken off of them. Research has suggested that chair or bed alarms can be a useful part of a fall prevention program but aren’t sufficient for preventing falls on their own.”
- Speaking with the senior about their vision. Many seniors need cataract surgery. While they have their cataracts, the risk of falling dramatically increases. After cataract surgery, the resident may need to have their prescriptions changed depending on the type of lens that is inserted into their eyes. Macular degeneration and other eye disorders can also increase the risk of falling because the resident cannot fully see where he/she is going.
- Adequate supervision. The nursing home should have enough staff to help seniors move from place to place and to monitor any activities such as walking or aerobic exercise.
Other preventive steps include looking at the footwear of the resident. Some shoes offer better traction than others. Consider keeping the resident active. Exercises, for some residents, can help improve the strength in their legs, knees, and ankles which can help the seniors keep their balance. Other factors that can help reduce the risk of falls include better lighting and adjusting the height of the resident’s bed.
Another (Albeit older) suggestion is to review the use of vitamin D supplements, based on a doctor’s prescription, that may help reduce the number of falls that occurred between 17% and 19%.
What happens if a senior does fall?
Seniors who do fall should be taken to a local emergency room to be examined, unless the nursing home has qualified in-house staff. Seniors may suffer any of the following injuries due to a slip and fall accident:
- A traumatic brain injury or head trauma if they strike their head on the ground or objects when they fall.
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis may occur in any fall including falls on the resident’s back.
- Broken bones including broken hips, arms, legs, hands, and feet
- Nerve, muscle, ligament, and muscle damage
- Neck, shoulder, and back pain
- Many other types of serious injuries
Some seniors never fully recover from a slip and fall accident. Sadly, some residents die as a result of the fall.
Our lawyers work to show that a nursing home employee or the nursing home itself acted negligently and should be held liable for the accident.
If the nursing home is liable, then, generally, the damages are paid either by the general liability insurance carrier or through professional liability insurance. Which coverage is used depends on various factors beginning with the cause of the slip and fall at the nursing home.
At Philbrook Law Office, we demand compensation for a senior’s injuries including demanding compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and any scarring or disfigurement. We file wrongful death claims when a loved one tragically dies due to Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA slip and fall accidents. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.