Falls in nursing homes becoming a more frequent problem

From the time we are young children, slips, trips and falls are an expected part of getting around. Children fall and skin their knees but this hardly slows them down. Even as adults, a trip-and-fall accident is often something you can easily walk away from.

Unfortunately, falling accidents can be debilitating or even fatal for elderly individuals. And as America’s population continues to age, fall prevention must become an increasingly important priority in retirement communities, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 24,000 people over the age of 65 died in 2012 as the result of a fall. That same year, 2.4 million seniors went to the emergency room for injuries related to falls.

Because falls are becoming a greater risk, many senior citizens do not feel comfortable living alone and their families agree. For some, the solution involves moving into a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

These institutions need to make every reasonable effort to prevent resident falls within the facility. Steps they can take include:

  • Ensuring that floors and walkways are as level as possible
  • Giving residents access to walkers, canes and other stability tools
  • Improving lighting conditions and adding distinctive markers to stairs and uneven surfaces to compensate for vision loss
  • Having adequate staffing levels to ensure that residents can get assistance walking when they need or want it
  • Adjusting the height of beds, toilets and other amenities in the residents’ rooms as needed
  • Installing flooring material that absorbs impact to minimize the injuries caused by falls

Not all falls can be prevented, but nursing homes and assisted-living facilities that do not make good-faith prevention efforts may be liable for injuries and deaths that occur as the result of preventable falls. If you have a loved one who has been seriously injured in a nursing home fall, please share your story with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Source: The New York Times, “Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation,” Katie Hafner, Nov. 2, 2014

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