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Failing to identify fall risks can be nursing home neglct

Falls are a significant health hazard for people in nursing homes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every five falls results in serious damage, like hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries.

Nursing homes are supposed to be prepared for patients who are at risk of falls—in many cases, patients enter into nursing homes precisely because they have conditions that put them in danger of falling. So how does a patient end up dying in a nursing home as a result of a fall?

Falls are usually the result of a few common problems:

-- The nursing home is understaffed, barely meeting the minimum requirements for nursing aides per resident, especially at night. If an elderly person at risk of a fall needs to get up and go to the bathroom, he or she may not be able to wait until an aide is free for an escort or help transferring to a beside commode.

-- Changes in medication can make a patient disoriented, weak, dizzy or confused. Inadequate supervision or inadequate documentation of the changes in the patient's cognitive function as a result of a new medication can lead to oversights.

—Poor lighting, cracks in tile flooring, holes or snags in hallway carpeting and items carelessly dropped on the floor can become a tripping hazard, especially if an elderly person has vision problems.

-- A failure on the part of the staff to do proper re-assessments on a regular basis to make sure that a patient has maintained the same level of functioning that he or she had upon entering the nursing home. For example, a patient who was ambulatory with just a cane should be reassessed on a regular basis to see if he or she needs to move to a walker for additional safety.

-- Poorly maintained footwear and walking aids can also contribute to falls. If a patient is wearing footwear that has loose soles or is using a cane that has a worn through rubber stopper, that's a sign of inadequate supervision and care.

Nursing homes that don't have adequate anti-fall measures in place can leave residents exposed to unnecessary dangers and preventable falls. If your loved one died in a fall at a nursing home, consider discussing the case with an attorney as soon as possible.

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