Cleveland Nursing Home Fall Lawyer – Holding Care Facilities Accountable Throughout Ohio for Fall Injuries and Death
Many families make the difficult decision to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility because of safety concerns due to a recent fall. We all expect that our loved ones will be safe from slip and fall accidents in a nursing home. After all, nursing homes are supposed to be experts in caring for the elderly.
Yet the fact is that falls are the fifth leading cause of death in senior citizens.1 Falls can cause broken arms, legs, and hips. In fact, 90 percent of fractured hips are caused by falls.2 Other injuries from falls include cuts or lacerations, sprains, and even subdural hematomas (brain bleeds). Research has shown that 50 to 75 percent of nursing home residents slip and fall each year. That’s double the rate of falls in the general community.3
So shouldn’t your mom or dad be safe from most falls in the nursing home? That depends on the actions of the facility and its staff. All too frequently, nursing homes fail to take the actions necessary to prevent falls. When they are negligent and residents are injured, we believe that they should be held fully accountable for all injuries that result.
Representing Residents and their Families in Nursing Home Fall Cases
As a nursing home fall lawyer in Ohio, I represent residents injured in nursing homes throughout the state in seeking justice and answers. I also represent the families who have lost a loved one as the result of a nursing home fall.
When a person is injured in a nursing home fall, the nursing homes want families to believe the fall is the result of an “accident” which could not be avoided. This is rarely the case.
In most cases, nursing home falls result from:
- The failure by the nursing home to properly assess the needs of a resident, and to develop a care plan around the resident’s specific needs. This assessment and plan should be undertaken by nurses and other medical experts at the outset of a resident’s entry into a nursing home, and thereafter on a periodic basis or whenever the resident sustains a significant medical event.
- The failure by the nursing home to implement the care plan to ensure that the resident is not injured in a fall. For instance, a care plan might require that:
- The resident never be left to walk unattended, or that the resident always be moved in a wheelchair.
- The resident should always be given assistance moving from a bed or chair into a wheelchair.
- The resident should always be given assistance in getting in and out of a bathroom.
When these protocols are not followed and a resident falls and is injured, the injury is not an “accident;” but instead, entirely foreseeable.
Identifying Slip and Fall Risk Factors
Prevention of falls begins with a proper assessment of the resident to identify specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of a dangerous slip and fall. There are many medical and situational risk factors for falls:
- New surroundings due to recent admission to nursing home
- Recent transfer from hospital room or different room at facility
- Moving from bed to chair
- Previous falls
- Urgency to get to bathroom to use toilet
- Physical weakness, unsteady gait
- Certain medications or multiple medications (poly pharmacy)
- Diagnosis of dementia
- Environmental hazards—poor lighting, wet or slippery floors, incorrect bed height, wheelchair obstacles
- Underlying problems with health, memory, or cognition
Of these risk factors, the most common causes of falls are muscle weakness, walking problems, and environmental hazards.3
Are Nursing Homes Responsible for Falls? The Duty of Nursing Homes, and Why They Might be Negligent
The Fall Assessment Tool
Nursing homes should use a Fall Assessment Tool to routinely evaluate each resident for the risk factors above. A team approach to the evaluation should include at least a nurse, doctor, physical therapist, and occupational therapist. This multidisciplinary team should take care to address these factors to determine whether they create a danger of falls for the resident.
Once risk factors are identified, the team needs to design an individualized care plan to minimize these risks. Interventions to minimize falls include a regular toileting schedule, low-height bed, mat alarm, chair alarm, and a review of medications. If a resident falls despite these precautions, the team must review the entire care plan, analyze each intervention in light of the circumstances of the fall, and formulate a new care plan.
While some falls in nursing homes result from conditions such as slick floors, the vast majority of nursing home fall injuries result from residents who should not be allowed to walk unattended, as well as falls from beds or chairs.
Determining Nursing Home Liability for Falls
In determining whether the nursing home is liable for the fall, I will want to determine whether a Fall Assessment Tool was used, when it was last used, whether an individualized care plan has been conducted, what was provided in the plan, how long ago the plan was last reviewed, and whether the resident’s condition has significantly changed since the last plan review. Once these and related matters are understood, it will be more clear as to whether a case of nursing home negligence exists for a fall.
Should Restraints Have Been Used?
Many families believe that physical restraints will prevent falls, but the research shows just the opposite: Restraints can increase the risk of injury and death3 and limit a resident’s movement with a restraint can lead to muscle weakness and reduced function.4 Ohio statute has very specific requirements for physicians prescribing physical restraints.
Federal regulations govern almost every aspect of care in nursing homes. They also address the daily problem of residents falling and injuries (see 42 C.F.R. § 483.25 (H)(1) and (2)). These regulations along with state regulations are often incorporated into a facility’s own policies and procedures.
It’s easy to see how falls can cause injury. But there’s a less obvious concern: They also cause fear of falling again. That fear may cause people to limit their activity, resulting in decreased physical fitness, which may itself cause a fall.5
The Downward Spiral – How Even Minor Falls Can Lead to Death
Tragically, even seemingly minor falls can trigger a chain of events leading to a serious deterioration in a resident’s health, or even death. When falls result in a resident becoming bedridden, other complications – such as bed sores can occur. Additionally, falls can seemingly trigger other medical events that would appear to be unrelated to the fall, but nonetheless a resident can die soon after the fall.
Are Subsequent Deaths the Result of Nursing Home Negligence?
The facts and circumstances of every case will differ, and the opinion of a medical expert (such as physician) will be needed to connect the injuries suffered from a fall to the cause of a resident’s death.
Cases and Experience – How I Help Clients Injured in Nursing Home Falls
While not all nursing home falls are the result of negligence, unfortunately many falls are completely predictable given a resident’s assessment for fall injury and the lack of proper safeguards that should have been taken. My role as a nursing home fall attorney is not only to prove negligence on the part of the nursing home in allowing the fall to occur, but also to seek for clients the full level of compensation that can be recovered under Ohio law.
Call for a Free Consultation, and Learn How to Get the Facts Needed
To learn more about your loved one’s rights and whether the fall may have resulted from nursing home negligence, please call me for a free consultation to discuss your loved one’s case. We have handled many fall cases and are available to discuss your options with you. We are available to serve clients in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, and throughout Ohio.
I have worked with the Nancy C. Iler Law Firm. Nancy Iler is a very well qualified to work in the injury field and has a lot of experience. She is hard working and aggressive in her pursuit of justice for her clients. I would not hesitate to recommend a family member to the Nancy C. Iler firm.
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1. Rubenstein, LZ, Robbins, A, Josephson KB, Schulman BL, Osterweil D. The value of assessing falls in an elderly population. Annals of Internal Medicine 1990; 113 (4):308–16.
2. Hayes SC, Myers ER, Morris JN, et al. Impact near hip dominates fracture risk in elderly nursing home residents who fall. Calcified Tissue International 1993; 1993 52:192–198.
3. Rubenstein LZ. Preventing falls in nursing homes. Journal of American Medical Association 1997; 278(7):595–596.
4. Sahyoun NR, Pratt LA, Lentzer H, Robinson KN. The changing profile of nursing home residents: 1985– 1997. Aging Trends; No. 4. Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics, 2001.
5. Vellas BJ, Wayne SJ, Romero LJ, Baumgartner RN, Garry PJ. Fear of falling and restriction of mobility in elderly fallers. Age and Aging 1997; 26:189–193.