Why Falls Happen in Nursing Homes
According to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with nearly 1.4 million Americans over 65 living in nursing homes, upwards of 1,800 people die from falls while living in nursing homes every year. As such, falls are a serious problem. Personal injury attorneys handle many times of fall cases each year, from typical slip-and-fall cases in the community to those occurring in nursing facilities. Here in Florida, as a state that attracts more than its share of retirees, there are many facilities with more than 100 beds. According to the CDC, a typical nursing home of that size will have an average of 100 to 200 falls, many of which are not even reported.
What Causes Nursing Home Falls?
The causes are quite literally as limitless as the range of human error. As clarified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), not all falls are preventable, but a great number of them are. There are a few principal causes that should be acknowledged.
Nursing homes are mostly private, for-profit institutions that are in the business of making money. The more beds that are full, the more money shareholders make. Somewhere between a hotel and a hospital, a nursing home bills by the rack (or bed), not necessarily by the room. Yet, medical and nursing services are also factored into the price of care. When nursing homes want to increase profits, they have to maximize the number of residents while reducing the number of employees. Although Florida has very strict staffing laws, many nursing homes massage the numbers or outright disregard them. When staffing is poor, there are fewer people looking out for the residents.
Oddly, most of the falls reported each year happen to people who are immobile. This means individuals who cannot walk are falling. This may seem counterintuitive, but there is a simple reason. Nursing homes have a lot of procedures designed to move and transport immobile residents. From specialty swings and slides to gait belts and wheelchairs, facilities have a lot of tools at their disposal. Sadly, they may not always invest the money to keep them in working order. Chair alarms are designed to loudly alert staff when a fall-risk resident attempts to get out of the chair. But these alarms are useless if no one changes the batteries.
Possibly the biggest factor in nursing home falls is poor training. When the staff is not aware of proper lifting techniques or the use of mechanical lifting devices, it can lead to disaster. Lastly, when residents are identified as being at risk for falls, nurses and aides should take additional precautions to avoid dangerous falls.
What Can Be Done if There Is a Fall?
Because a fall can cause painful and debilitating injuries that result in long-term or even permanent loss of mobility, the first step is seeking quality medical treatment. Loss of mobility can lead to other dangerous conditions like bedsores, infections, and ultimately death. If you know someone who has been injured by a fall, you should document all events and contact an experienced Florida personal injury lawyer at the Romero Law Firm today.