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The Most Common Causes of Nursing Home Falls

By Jason Bottlinger on April 20, 2023

Falls in nursing homes can cause devastating injuries for older adults. Nursing home facilities and staff have a duty to exercise care to prevent elderly residents from the risk of falling. If your loved one has suffered a fall in an Omaha nursing home, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about your options under the law.

Can Nursing Homes Be Held Liable for Resident Fall Injuries?

Many falls that happen in nursing homes are preventable with proper fall prevention programs. Nursing home facilities have a duty to properly assess each patient for fall risks and any modifications that may be needed for safer mobility. Staff should be well-educated on nursing home fall prevention and aware of any residents who have a higher risk of falling. The facility has a responsibility to ensure no environmental hazards exist that could increase fall risks. When they fail in these duties, nursing homes could be held liable.

How Common Are Falls Among Nursing Home Residents?

Every year, three million older people in the U.S. are treated in emergency rooms for falls, as reported by the CDC. More than 300,000 senior citizens are hospitalized for hip fractures every year, 95% of which are caused by falling. Many older adults who suffer falls are nursing home residents. Researchers found that the incidence of falls in nursing homes is 1.5 falls per bed year, in a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

What Are the Most Common Causes of Nursing Home Falls?

Many different factors can contribute to falls among elderly nursing home residents. Common causes include:

  • Environmental hazards: Slippery floors, loose carpet, inadequate lighting, poorly installed bedrails, lack of safety rails in bathrooms, and other environmental hazards can lead to falls that could have been prevented.
  • Inadequate staffing or supervision: When a nursing home facility is inadequately staffed, residents may not receive the supervision they need to prevent falls. Nursing homes have a duty to assess a resident’s risk of falling and to implement plans and procedures and provide adequate supervision. Lack of supervision can lead to neglect, wandering, and falling.
  • Medication errors or side effects: Certain medications commonly given to nursing home residents can increase the risk of falling. These drugs include anti-anxiety meds, sedatives, and sleep medications. When staff make medication errors and overmedicate residents, it can make them dizzy and lead to falls.
  • Mobility issues: Elderly nursing home residents may suffer gait and balance instability, lower-extremity weakness, poor vision, and functional and cognitive impairment, all of which can cause problems with mobility. Nursing home facilities have a duty to identify and closely monitor residents with a high risk of falling, employ interventions to improve function and strength, and remove environmental hazards. Reducing mobility through the use of restraints is more harmful than beneficial, as found in the NIH study.
  • Staff misuse of gait belts: Gait belts are assistive devices used to transfer nursing home residents from bed to a wheelchair, to help them stand or sit, and to assist with walking. When used properly, they can help keep residents from falling. Improper use of gait belts can cause a resident to fall.

Falls in nursing homes can have devastating consequences for older adults. They can cause serious injuries and lead to disability, functional decline, loss of independence, and reduced quality of life. Residents who fall may develop a fear of falling, experience feelings of helplessness and social isolation, and suffer emotional distress. Falling once doubles the risk of falling again, as stated by CDC.

If your elderly loved one has suffered a fall in a nursing home, contact an Omaha nursing home negligence lawyer at Bottlinger Law L.L.C. at (402) 505-8234. We have experience representing victims of nursing home negligence.

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