As the Brain Injury Association of America embarks upon Fall Prevention Month, it is important to highlight the high incidence of head injuries sustained by the elderly in preventable falls in nursing homes. Nursing home facilities are required to provide residents with a safe and hazard-free environment including attention to fall prevention, because it is known to them that a high risk of falls exists for this population. Unfortunately, research shows between 16% and 27% of nursing home falls are caused by factors such as dim lighting, slippery floors, broken equipment, and unclear walkways. Incorrect bed heights and faulty bed rails account for almost 30% of all nursing home falls. These are items easily remedied by nursing homes that often go unmanaged.

In contrast, falling can cause serious injury such as a fractured hips or head trauma in the elderly. Children are known to bounce back quickly after an injury, but older adults recover much more slowly, or sadly never. In fact, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in older adults accounting for approximately 60%. A fall can reduce or eliminate a person’s mobility and independence by causing them to fear activity. This decrease in activity puts seniors at a higher risk of pneumonia and other health complications, which can also lead to death.

You can be armed with knowledge to help you or a loved one if a fall occurs in a nursing home. First, if you believe your loved one is showing signs of head injury or anything is concerning to you, have them taken to the hospital immediately for testing and treatment. Further, be aware the nursing home must conduct an initial assessment and commence neurological checks at multiple times throughout the day in the first 48-72 hours of fall with suspected head injury. These checks should continue on regular intervals with less frequency over the following days and weeks. You can request a consult by a neurological physician as soon as possible while the loved one is at the nursing home if you don’t feel an emergency visit is necessary; that physician can be of your choosing. These actions are all within the rights of your loved one and concerned family members. Be aware as well that the facility is required to investigate the fall and complete a report which your loved one has the right to obtain, and the facility may be required to report the fall and injury to the Department of Health depending on the circumstances. These are just some pointers, but please do not hesitate to take any further steps you deem necessary in the event of a fall and injury.

If you or a loved one suffers a fall or injury from an unknown source at a nursing home, it may be due to negligence. Stark & Stark’s nursing home attorneys can determine whether there is a claim, and if so, we will fight to recover the compensation your loved one deserves. Feel free to contact us.