Unfortunately, falls are a common risk in hospitals and nursing homes. Elderly patients and residents face the risk of falling in a variety of situations – which can be related to medical malpractice and negligence in some cases. Because of this, it’s important to understand why these accidents happen so you can aid in the prevention of your elderly loved one falling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 3 million elderly people are treated in emergency rooms every year for fall-related injuries. Below you’ll find additional facts and statistics regarding falls in hospitals and nursing homes.
- One in five falls results in serious injuries like broken bones or head injuries.
- Over 800,000 patients are hospitalized every year to treat fall injuries.
- Between 50 percent and 75 percent of elderly patients suffer from nursing home falls each year.
- Between 16 and 27 percent of nursing home falls occur due to environmental hazards, like inadequate lighting or slippery floors.
- Approximately 1,800 elders die each year as a result of a traumatic fall.
- In 2015, the medical costs associated with falls totaled more than $50 billion.
With those statistics in mind, let’s take a look at why these falling happen in hospitals and nursing homes.
Why Do Falls Occur in Hospitals and Nursing Homes?
Elder patients and residents risk falling in hospitals and nursing homes for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are often related to provider negligence. Negligence can come in a multitude of forms. If a patient or resident is given multiple medications that interact poorly with each other, they may fall. A patient may also fall if a health care provider fails to diagnose a condition or misdiagnoses a condition related to mobility, and an elder may also be at risk for falling if their symptoms are inadequately assessed.
In addition to negligent provider care, there are certain risk factors that contribute to the high number of falls experienced each year. These include lower body weakness, vitamin D deficiency, medications like sedatives or antidepressants, vision problems, foot pain or improper footwear, and environmental hazards.
What Can Happen After a Fall?
As mentioned above, 20 percent of falls result in serious injury. These injuries can make it difficult for a person to get around, complete their daily activities, and live on their own.
Some of the most common physical injuries which often result after falls include broken wrists, arms, and ankles. Hip fractures are also common. Depending on the fall, head injuries may occur. If a person is taking blood thinners, head injuries can have even more severe consequences.
Falling can have an effect on a person’s mental state, as well as their physical state. Some people who fall, even if they’re not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause a person to cut down on their everyday activities. When this happens, especially with an elderly person, they actually put themselves at a greater risk for falling because the lack of physical activity and exercise can lead to overall weakness.
How Can Falls Be Prevented?
While the unfortunate fact is that not all falls can be prevented, there are steps people can take to reduce the chance of falling. A few of these steps involve holding health care providers accountable for their standard of care.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Patient Safety Network (PSNet) the most useful fall prevention interventions include the following:
- All healthcare providers (not just nurses) should be trained to know how to intervene to prevent a fall.
- Healthcare staff should have access to structured patient education sessions to understand falling risks.
- Every patient or resident should have an individualized care plan that addresses their risk factors, needs, and preferences.
- Provisions should be made for safe
- There should be a focus on preventing, detecting, and treating delirium.
- Medications associated with increased risk of falls should be evaluated and discontinued, if possible.
- Healthcare providers should develop schedules for offering frequent assistance to use the toilet.
- Physiotherapists should offer patients early advice regarding mobility and exercise.
- If a fall does occur, it should be used as an opportunity to evaluate the prevention plan and improve upon it.
If your loved one has suffered from a fall, our attorneys are prepared to help you hold the negligent party responsible for the accident by investigating the circumstances surrounding the fall. Compensation may be available to help cover the costs of medical expenses and additional damages sustained after the fall. Contact us today to discuss your options.