Preventing Nursing Home Injuries
Nursing homes are intended to provide full-time medical and personal care for those who cannot care for themselves.
This is an important responsibility, both to provide the care needed and to prevent any harm or injury to the patients. When a nursing home injury occurs, it can often be due to poor planning or negligent care on the part of the facility’s administration, management and healthcare team.
Why Do Nursing Home Injuries Occur?
To prevent nursing home injuries, it is first important to understand how they occur. Injuries can vary from medical issues like bedsores and infections to physical injuries from falls and other accidents. Injuries can also be caused by abuse and negligence, including physical abuse, poor nutrition, medication errors and even sexual assault. With such a wide scope of possible injuries, it is necessary for nursing homes to have protocols in place to prevent them from happening to the patients in their care.
Nursing home injuries often occur when the safety standards for care are not met. This includes standards that are put in place by the state and federal government for long-term care facilities. Some of the standards that are designed to protect patients in nursing homes from injury include:
- Ratio of patients to staff members
- Medical chart protocols
- Safety perimeters
- Hiring protocols
- Training and management adherence
While there are inspections performed by government agencies on nursing homes to identify poor adherence to safety standards for patients, these may only happen once or less per year. This can allow for some nursing home facilities to slip in their responsibilities in adhering to these standards and patient injuries can occur.
Safety Precautions to Prevent Falls
One of the main causes of injury and death in nursing homes is falls. The CDC estimates that 50-75% of residents in nursing homes fall each year, with about 1,800 patients dying each year from falls that occurred in nursing homes. Most residents in nursing homes are elderly and frail – a fall can easily fracture bones or cause a serious head injury. Due to the high number of falls and the risk of injury to these patients, fall prevention is a key factor in preventing nursing home injuries.
Falls in nursing homes occur for a variety of reasons. Some of the main contributors to the high number of injuries from nursing home falls include:
- Lack of assistance for individuals with mobility issues. Patients that need assistance getting out of bed or into their wheelchairs are often those that fall. Lack of nursing staff to help those with mobility issues can lead to fall injuries.
- Safety hazards. Nursing homes should be carefully monitored for safety or tripping hazards. Poor lighting, loose flooring or wet floors can all be factors in creating fall hazards.
- Medication side effects. Nursing home staff needs to understand the possible side effects of a patient’s medications, especially those that can make him dizzy or lose his balance. Those residents on these types of medications need assistance to prevent falls.
- Poor physical condition. Patients need exercise and proper nutrition to maintain their physical stamina. Weak muscles, frail bones and poor balance can contribute to falls and injuries.
- Lack of support or safety equipment. Patients need access to walkers, canes and wheelchairs that will help prevent fall injuries. In addition, items like non-slip footwear should be used to prevent slips and falls.
While not all falls can be prevented, many can. While elderly people do have the highest rate of falls, those who live in the community versus in nursing homes have half the number of fall injuries of nursing home residents. Facilities that take fall prevention seriously and adhere to the safety precaution protocols can greatly reduce the chance of injury from falls for their patients.
Prevention of Other Nursing Home Injuries
Medical management is the other main concern for prevention of nursing home injuries. This encompasses a wide variety of possible injuries, from bed sores and wrong medication to poor nutrition and infections. Once again, following the guidelines that are available through state and federal agencies can prevent many of these types of injuries, which is why nursing homes are often liable when injuries occur.
Nursing Home Injury Claims & Lawsuits
When preventable injuries occur in a nursing home, the facility can be liable for medical costs and the pain caused to the patient. Nursing home injury claims and lawsuits are not only about compensation, but also important in the prevention of injuries to other patients in the same facilities. At Nelson & Hammons, we represent those that have been injured in nursing homes and seek compensation for them and their families, including wrongful death cases. If you have a loved one that has been injured in a Louisiana nursing home due to negligence, contact one of our offices for a free consultation to learn your legal options.