More than any other segment of the American population, elderly seniors are at an incredibly high risk of suffering slip and fall accidents. With the loss of bone mass, muscle strength and joint health commonly associated with aging, it’s no wonder that even a minor fall can have serious consequences for someone over the age of 65.
But you might be surprised to learn that dangers are particularly acute in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, places that have promised to keep our loved ones safe.
How Common Are Slip & Fall Accidents Among The Elderly?
For people between the ages of 65 and 84, falls are the second most common fatal accident. Over 85, falls lead the pack of injuries that end in death. In fact, the National Floor Safety Institute has labeled the incredible prevalence of slip and falls among the elderly an “epidemic.”
In 2011 alone, around 22,900 seniors died after a fall.
Why Are Falls Prevalent In Nursing Homes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 5% of America’s elderly population live in a long-term care facility. But falls in those facilities account for around 20% of all fall-related deaths among seniors nationwide.
The CDC explains this shocking fact through a bit of simple reasoning. Nursing home residents are more likely to be frail than their counterparts who still live in the community. Nursing home residents generally suffer from chronic conditions, many of which impede their range of motion. And all of these factors increase the likelihood of a fall.
Reading the CDC’s explanation, you’d be left with no doubt that elderly slip and fall accidents are unavoidable, a simple byproduct of aging.
Is Nursing Home Negligence To Blame?
But is that really true? The CDC reports another statistic that seems to suggest otherwise:
“Environmental hazards in nursing homes cause 16% to 27% of falls among
And environmental hazards are anything but unavoidable. Take a look at the following list of dangers cited by the CDC:
- wet floors
- poor lighting
- incorrect bed height
- improperly fitted or maintained wheelchairs
Do any of those fall risks sound like a normal aspect of aging? Of course not. Instead, they’re the result of a nursing home’s direct failure to properly ensure its residents’ safety.
And that’s a real cause for concern.
Are Nursing Homes Safe?
In many cases, nursing homes simply aren’t living up to the standards we should demand. While the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) has outlined rigorous guidelines for promoting resident safety, they acknowledge that their recommendations are not followed universally.
Here are the results of an annual survey the AHRQ sends out to elder-care facilities:
- Only 35% out of 18,968 nursing home employees felt that their facility was staffed properly. It’s impossible to properly supervise a number of patients with only a skeleton crew.
- Only 74% would recommend the nursing homes in which they worked to friends or family as “safe.”
- Only 58% of staff members working in large nursing homes (over 200 beds) would rate their facility as “Excellent” or “Very Good” in terms of resident safety.
With employee opinions like that, it’s clear that many nursing home residents are falling through the institutional cracks, and suffering serious injuries as a result.
How Are Nursing Home Accidents Different From Slip & Falls?
Did your loved one fall in a nursing home? This is not a simple slip and fall case. Nursing homes have specific responsibilities, ones that property owners do not share, which impact their potential liability for resident injuries.
Central to questions of legal responsibility is a resident’s individual “care plan.” Here’s how it works:
1. Nursing Homes Are Health Care Facilities
The very foundation of a nursing home’s existence is the safety of its residents. If patients aren’t safe, what’s the point? And with falls so prevalent among the elderly, preventing them is one of a facility’s main duties.
In New York State, nursing homes are health-care facilities, not businesses or private residences. They’re rigorously regulated and have one purpose: promoting their resident’s health wherever possible.
2. They Need To Make A Plan
Every resident who enters a nursing home is given a “fall risk assessment.” This evaluation is so important that it’s reported to the Federal Government.
After determining a senior’s history of falls and current chances of falling, staff members must design a unique prevention program, a care plan, intended to prevent injuries as much as possible.
3. They Have To Use The Plan & Make It Better
The care plan must be communicated to all staff members who will work with the senior, and followed to a tee. If not, it was made in vain.
Over time, the care plan must be reviewed and altered if necessary. If a fall does take place, what went wrong and how can we fix the problem? Nursing home employees should be asking these kinds of questions all the time.
Do I Need A Lawyer To Pursue My Case?
Analyzing this process, from the assessment of a resident’s risk, to the development of an appropriate prevention plan and its revision if necessary, is the bedrock of a successful nursing home slip and fall lawsuit.
If you intend to file a lawsuit against a nursing home, you’ll have to thoroughly investigate your loved one’s care plan. But before that, you will need to determine whether or not they were properly assessed for risks in the first place.
Over the course of an exacting examination, you’ll need answers to essential questions, like:
- was their fall prevention program adequate?
- was it properly communicated to staff members?
- was it followed appropriately?
- was it regularly revised for the better?
It’s almost impossible to do all that without an experienced personal injury lawyer. Moreover, you should look for an attorney with experience in both slip and fall cases and nursing home negligence.
Contact The Personal Injury Lawyers At Banville Law
Need help reviewing your case? Call our slip and fall attorneys today for a free consultation. You’ll hear from an experienced lawyer within 24 hours, free of charge with no obligation.
Call (917) 551-6690 or fill out our contact form.